Supporting the Healing Power of Music: Reflections from David Clower, RDF’s Chief Investment Officer

Supporting the Healing Power of Music: Reflections from David Clower, RDF’s Chief Investment Officer

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” – Bono

Music is a way to heal.  It’s a tool used to develop creative, collaborative, and communication skills; but more than that, it enhances social awareness and eases anxiety.  But the best thing is when you teach someone music, it’s a gift they’ll have forever.

David Clower, RDF’s Chief Investment Officer, in his home office.

At the Raza Development Fund, we strive to create better opportunities for Latino and poor communities – and especially our youth. Every day we look for new and innovative ways to support our young people by investing in schools, education initiatives, and other programs that will help them thrive. And music is one of those powerful activities that can propel our youth toward success.

Music has almost always been a part of my life and my family. My five siblings and I grew up around it, and now my three children all play guitar and or piano. But for nearly 15 years, I let the pressures of life and work crowd out time for music. Then, during the pandemic, I found myself at home, strangely unable to travel, and with a little extra time on my hands. I decided to pick up playing the guitar again and my fondness for music was quickly re-ignited. It’s something that just stays with you.  For me, music’s a refuge where I find peace and time to reflect.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to support two amazing non-profit organizations that provide critical and inspiring musical opportunities for our youth.

Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA)

Talk about investing in kids!

RDF, together with Genesis LA, was proud to provide $23 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing for the development of the Judith and Thomas L. Beckman Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) Center, which officially opened on October 16.  Its program offers low-income students a free, world-class experience to learn and perform in a state-of-the-art performance space with fantastic acoustics.

The center was featured in the LA Times where Mark Swed, a classical music critic writes, “I have never been in a more agreeable place in which to receive music.  A beguiling physical structure, a purpose to serve both the needs of its community and the future of music, and a getting-down-to-essentials spirit, along with spectacular sound, magnify music and the joy of its making.”

In addition to a great space, these students get to work directly with world-famous artists like Gustav Dudamel, a Venezuelan conductor, and violinist, who is the music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Opéra National de Paris; and celebrated acoustician, Yasuhisa Toyota, who is recognized for creating the “game-changing” sound of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. YOLA enjoys amazing support from the community and its Board of Directors, which includes Julie Andrews, best known for her iconic roles in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.

It revitalizes the community and gives these young people an amazing opportunity and experience they would otherwise not have had. This beautiful project is not about charity, it’s about investing in budding futures and providing tools to develop critical soft skills like dedication and collaboration.

While working with this project, the music and the program inspired me. They took this vision and turned a former Burger King and bank into a holistic model to support a community with dignity. I had never realized before how powerful music could be as a tool for community development and organization.

Phoenix Conservatory of Music

In August of this year, I was proud to join the Board of Directors of the Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM) as Treasurer where I am excited to support its long-time Executive Director, Regina Nixon.

Photo courtesy of PCM

This community music school provides “out-of-school-time” music education for youth with multiple programs including group classes, private lessons, and in-depth collegiate prep courses as a partner of Berklee College of Music’s Berklee City Music Network.  PCM invests in their young “at-hope” students, many of whom come from low and moderate-income homes, by making their programs as equitable as possible and even providing financial aid and support.  As a non-profit, PCM does so much with so little, because they believe in the power of music.

“Music lays a foundation of disciplines, helps to identify emotions, and releases serotonin in the brain.  We can’t understate or downplay its effects.  It eases depression and anxiety by allowing these kids to express themselves in their peer group.  It’s priceless for young people, lifesaving,” Regina says.  “I won’t say music is a cure-all, but it’s definitely healing.”

Photo courtesy of PCM

It’s a critical asset in our community.  For many Arizona schools, their arts program budget is dwindling.  According to a 2019 report from the Arizona Department of Education, “the proportion of students without access to any arts courses was greatest in schools where more than 75% of students received Free/Reduced Price Lunch when compared to the distribution of the total student enrollment.”

If students are not exposed to music at school, they may not seek it out.  That’s why programs like PCM are so important.  PCM is truly one of the best-kept secrets in Phoenix with an incredible potential to grow and serve even more kids.

“We are so excited to have David’s leadership on our Board of Directors, someone who truly believes in the power of music for young people” Regina says.

Join PCM at an upcoming event and learn more about how you can support its good work by visiting its website; and, of course, stay connected with RDF on our website and social media: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to learn more about our impactful projects.

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