June 10, 2010
Michael Jones has worked several jobs throughout his life. He's been a paramedic, a firefighter and a construction worker, plus he's also cultivated a passion for music on the side. Today, his job is making sure all kids know it's possible to play music.
A wall plastered with autographed photos chronicles Jones' encounters with hundreds of famous faces in the music biz, and his Albemarle County living room is not just filled with furniture, but also guitars, banjos and keyboards. While Jones admits he can play more instruments than he can count, if you listen closely, you'll quickly discover it's not about him. It's about helping kids by giving them the keys to something that may make a difference in their lives.
Jones was inspired to start Music for HOPE after recalling a time in his life when money kept him from making music.
"[My mom] didn't have the money to buy me an instrument, rent me an instrument or to pay for music lessons," said Jones.
Refusing to hold others back from expressing themselves through music, Jones created Music for HOPE to, in his words, "level the playing field so every child has the opportunity to become involved in music." He asks people to donate their old instruments that have been collecting dust.
"An instrument is meant to be played, music is meant to be shared, and you can't share the music if the clarinet is sitting in the closet," he said.
Jones started the non-profit organization the early 1990s when Jones worked in Las Vegas as a music producer. In 2006, he moved the program's national headquarters to Charlottesville, wanting to bring the success of Music for HOPE to central Virginia.
"I'm in the process of inventorying various school districts, and contacting band directors to find where the greatest needs are," said Jones.
Flipping through 'Thank You' notes from the hundreds of kids who've received instruments over the years, Jones says it's satisfying to see, but admits more work needs to be done.
Jones and Music for HOPE have also assisted many non-profit organizations by providing entertainers for fundraisers and presenting many free concerts to help bring music back into the community.