“It’s a must,” Van Halen told CNN’s John Vause during an interview Tuesday. “It has to be taught.”
In an era when schools are forced to cut budgets, it’s often non-essential programs like music that gets the axe. A study compiled by the NAMM foundation found that kids who play instruments get better grades, have higher IQs and lower their chances of drug and alcohol abuse later in life.
Several years ago, he took 75 guitars from his personal collection and gave them away to public school kids through the nonprofit organization Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” the charity’s president and CEO Felice Mancini told CNN. “The kids share the guitars, they learn, they graduate and then the instruments stay in the school.”
The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation delivers 1,800 instruments each year to low-income schools, providing more than 10,000 children with a musical education.
“Our goal is to give kids every tool they can possibly have to succeed. Music is the common denominator,” Mancini said. “You put a kid in a music class and it builds community, communication and they find a place. It’s a safe haven.”
The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was inspired by the acclaimed motion picture Mr. Holland’s Opus, the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. The film’s composer, Michael Kamen, started the foundation in 1996 as his commitment to the future of music education.
According to Biography.com, after moving from Holland to Pasedena, California, he and his brother, Alex, took classical piano lessons, then as teenagers, Eddie switched to guitar and Alex to drums to start their first band together, Mammoth. Van Halen got their first break in 1977 leaving the rest to history.