Plugged In is a non-profit program for teenagers that teaches kids how to be in a rock band and, more importantly, about the importance of giving back to the community. Twice a year, there are benefit concerts and all the students vote to choose the organization for which the concert will raise money. Plugged In is about bringing young people together through music, teaching them the importance of using their music to make a positive change in the world, and helping them gain self-confidence. Our goal with Plugged In is to have the charitable aspect of the program be so meaningful for our students that they will continue using their music to help others throughout their lives.
Plugged In is for kids who want to start a rock band, but either don't know how, don't have the confidence to do so, have no one with whom to start the band, or don't have a place to rehearse. Each group (made up of about 5 teens) chooses a name for the band and what songs they are going to play. They also write and perform original music.
Through the creative and nurturing environment provided by the Plugged In program, students are encouraged to take risks in both musical performance and songwriting, which results in artistic growth and increased self-confidence. For many teenagers, playing in a band and in a concert has been a dream or goal of theirs for a long time. We hope that by showing teenagers that they can accomplish this goal, they can translate this experience into other parts of their lives and accomplish other goals.
At the end of each session, the Plugged In teen bands perform in a live benefit concert. As the music industry is dominated by business, money, and fame, Plugged In hopes to infuse their students' experience of music with some social consciousness and show them the importance of giving back to the community. At the beginning of each session, students are asked if there are organizations or causes that are important to them - which they would like to support with their music. Based on their ideas, the final concert becomes a benefit event to raise money for one of these causes/organizations. Past concerts have raised money for Seeds of Peace, a camp where Arab and Jewish teenagers come together and learn conflict resolution skills and learn to develop trust and empathy for one another, the Tobacco Free Mass Coalition, I Love Music Foundation, started by Walter McCarty of the Boston Celtics to promote music opportunities, resources and education for Boston youth, the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care and Music For Relief, the Elias Fund, started by the band Dispatch to provide hope and opportunity through education to the next generation of Zimbabwean youth, and Amnesty International.
There are many sports activities available to youth, and these young athletes find success and recognition through their participation in these programs. While this is important, we have found that young musicians often do not have these same opportunities. These youth may have comparable talent, skill level, and enthusiasm in their musical specialty, but there are fewer opportunities in which to participate and, thus, few opportunities for them to reap the benefits that come from being involved in community programs. The Plugged In program offers teenage musicians something they can not often find elsewhere: a community to which they can belong, an opportunity to connect with other teenage musicians, a place where they feel safe to take risks and gain self confidence, and a way to learn about the importance of community giving through our bi-annual benefit concerts.