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Best of Tacoma 2015: Best Nonprofit Organization

Ted Brown Music Outreach

Co-owner Stephanie Howe looks over a French horn that will be fixed and used in a program to help underserved students. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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In 2007, employees at Ted Brown Music were faced with the strange problem of altruism.

"People kept coming in with used instruments, asking ‘can I give this to a kid who can't afford one?'" Stephanie Howe remembers. "We didn't know what to tell them."

The solution was the formation of Ted Brown's Music Outreach (TBM Outreach) program, of which Howe is executive director.  Fixing up, and then matching instruments to potential musicians who can't afford to rent or buy them, is only one part of the South Puget Sound music store's outreach program, though.

The other portion of TBM Outreach involves innovative programming that spans ages, genres and locales and seeks to improve young peoples' lives through the gift of music.  Year-round, aspiring musicians can discover music through weekly classes like Teddy Bear Music (ages 0-5), Melody Kids Music Class (ages 5-10), Jazz Combo Class, Instrument Exploration Camp, Take 5 Jazz Camp, Uke N' Jam (a ukulele jam session), a weekly drum circle, and one of the most popular components of the entire TBM Outreach program, Live It OutLoud.

Designed for future rock stars between the ages of 12 and 18, Live It OutLoud is a sort of summertime School of Rock.  The youths form bands with like-minded individuals and spend eight weeks rehearsing and learning skills like writing original music through weekly clinics.  Weekly visits with local professional musician mentors help keep the experience authentic and relevant, and Ted Brown shops in Tacoma and Silverdale have practice rooms set up with equipment so amps and drum kits don't have to be schlepped from garage to garage.

Live performances at the Rialto Theater, where each band performs two cover songs and one original; studio time at Pacific Studios and a CD/DVD mark the culmination of the eight weeks of rock and roll exploration.

This year, 70 aspiring rock stars are involved in Live it OutLoud, and 145 musicians and instruments were matched.  But the success of the TBM Outreach program is seen not just in numbers.  Bands formed in 2012 have stayed together and still perform together, sometimes trading members for other Live It OutLoud participants.  And recently, a violin was donated that had gone to an early recipient of the program.

Visit tacomamusiccam.com for more information about how to take part in TBM Outreach, and visit tacomarockschool.com to see some of the excitement generated by Live It OutLoud. 

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