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music always had a way of finding me. I was the first ever freshman non- major to be selected for UM’s top Jazz Vocal Ensemble, where I sang for three years. During my senior year, I was honored to sing live on stage with Billy Joel during a Q&A session he hosted on our campus. After graduation, I moved to Chicago to join Teach For America,


and was employed at an all-boys charter high school on the city’s west side. While teaching special education, I founded and directed our char- ter network’s first sustained extracurricular choir, UPliftment, which twice earned superior ratings at the Illinois ‘Trills & Thrills’ Music Fes- tival at “Six Flags: Great America.” In an effort to better combine my two passions, I joined the Guitars


What Type Of Lessons/Instruction Is Given? Our approach to instruction offers a unique balance between Na-


tional Arts & Social-Emotional Learning standards that we believe is critical to positive youth development. We apply skill-based instruction across many settings depending on the needs our unique partner sites. In Chicago alone, we’ve built large after-school ensembles at two pub- lic schools; we serve as the primary music instructors at an alternative school; and we operate a faith-based community center and recording studio open to all youth. While the set-up at each site may look differ- ent, the desired outcome is the same: to create a generation of young people who use music as a weapon for self-determination, leadership and empathy. Because exposure is a great teacher, we also offer our students a vari-


ety of music-related experiences to broaden their horizons; for example, each school site engages in an annual music video project focused on an issue that matters to them, a live session day in a professional recording studio, tours of famous venues, and multiple live performance oppor- tunities. No matter the setting, a common thread in the fabric of our approach involves teaching how music affects our environment: from self-concept, to interpersonal and community relations. This empowers students to translate musical skills learned in our classrooms to the other stages of their lives.


What Is The Typical Background Of The Instructors? Our mentors typically identify as musicians first; many of them


play professionally in their resident cities and have accumulated notable opportunities to appear on television; tour with some of the biggest names in music; and publicly release their own artistic material. We also have a group of mentors who identify as educators first, coming from careers in teaching, counseling, and social services, who have a desire to use music as an avenue for reaching young people. We’ve seen incredibly positive results when these two camps of people work together in service of our students. Given my experience as a classroom teacher and a musician, I’m


fortunate enough to be on a mentor team with another member of my own band here in Chicago, The Shades. Over the past year and a half, we’ve shared unique experiences and offered an additional layer of chemistry to our students that in turn, makes US better musicians and bandmates. With our debut EP due to release in the Spring of 2017, we’re excited to share in the moment with our kids, and hope to put together a music video project in the coming months that features them.


What Is Your Position Within GOGO And Background As A Musician?


I’ve long balanced a ‘double life’ between careers in music and edu- cation. I earned a degree in Secondary Education from the University of Miami, which placed me in different field experiences working with local students and teachers, particularly in Miami’s low-income schools and communities. No matter the constraints of my school schedule,


MAY 2017


Over Guns Organization in the fall of 2015 as a founding mentor and site director at Evergreen Academy on Chicago’s Southside. During this time, I wrote and played music extensively with my acoustic trio, The Shades (@WeTheShades), and was honored with an opportunity to rep- resent ‘Team Adam’ on Season 11 of NBC’s The Voice. Following my time on The Voice, I returned to Chicago to take on


the role of founding regional director for the Chicago branch of Guitars Over Guns. In this role, I am responsible for managing the experiences of nearly 350 students, a dozen mentors, and four local school partners. Through my work with GOGO, I hope to continue striking the balance between my two passions.


Do You Have A Personal Philosophy Or Mission Statement On Music Education?


Whether it’s meant putting myself in position to seize opportuni-


ties, or following the direction of adults and peers who have believed in me, keeping music at the forefront of my life has always been about finding a way. In elementary school, my music teacher, Mrs. Whitcomb, nearly had to bribe me to join the choir she was starting for 4th and 5th grad- ers. She found a way. In college, I didn’t let my decision to pursue a degree in educa-


tion prevent me from being active in my school’s music program. I sur- rounded myself with the best musicians and sang in multiple top-tier vocal ensembles. I found a way. As an educator, I used music as a tool to connect with my students


by founding and directing an after-school choir, and found time for music in my own life by helping to form The Shades, who as of this spring will be professional recording artists on all digital platforms. I found a way.


After leaving the classroom, I took advantage of an opportunity to


appear on The Voice, and continue to use the platform given to me as an amplifier for the good word work of Guitars Over Guns. When it comes to the molding of young musicians and citizens, I have a responsibility to help young people build an identity to which music is so critical, that there is no other option but to find a way.


Here Is Your Chance To Invite Musicians To Be Involved With Guitar Over Guns:


There are so many ways to invest in the work that we do, but in my opinion, no way is more valuable than making a genuine, face-to-face impact on our young people. To anyone who is considering becoming a mentor for Guitars Over Guns, please understand: we need you; you are valued and supported in doing this incredibly important work, and it will change your life. Please contact Andrew at andrew@guitarsover- guns.org to learn more about our programs and how to get involved.


Thank you to Andrew DeMuro for providing insight to this music education journal.


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