Playing music is one of life’s greatest joys, one we hope to share with as many kids as possible.

Musical Mentors Collaborative is a nonprofit that provides free, student-centered music instruction to students who would not otherwise have access to private lessons, addressing structural inequities in music education.

The program began in 2009 as a partnership between Columbia University students and PS 145, a neighboring elementary school in Morningside Heights, and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in New York State in 2011.

University chapters

Currently, we have chapters at 5 universities (NYU, Columbia University, Queens College, Boston University, and SUNY Binghamton) and 6 elementary schools in New York City and Boston. Volunteer instructors are all university students with extensive music training. Some are aspiring musicians or music educators. Others are pursuing careers in finance, law, government, consulting, and non-profit. They’re all talented musicians who love sharing what they’ve learned with a student who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to learn it—in an individualized, one-to-one classroom environment.

Students range from K-5. Since 2009, we’ve taught over 500 students over 8,000 hours of lessons, all free of charge. Most have no music training, and attend public schools with little to no arts education budget. Many play piano, violin, and guitar, but some also study harmonica, drums, ukulele, voice, and composition.  Many of our students study classical and jazz, but we teach whatever our students love to listen to—pop, hip hop, and rock are all on menu.

Outside the lesson room, our students have the opportunity to share their hard work with their families, communities, and friends during twice-a-year recitals. We’ve taken our students and their families to concerts at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, through partnerships with the Columbia University Department of Music, Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY), and the Little Orchestra Society. Over the years, our students have also joined us for workshops with Grammy-nominated jazz artists, touring classical pianists, and PhD candidates in music education.

Teaching fellowship / COVID-19 response

The pandemic has devastated the incomes of some of our nation’s most gifted young musicians. It’s cooped up our kids at home, often with no artistic outlet to turn to.

We’ve launched the MMC Teaching Fellowship to support our national musical treasure, and to share that treasure with the next generation of young musicians. Our teaching fellow grant supports a 5-student studio for 3 months of weekly, one-to-one Zoom lessons. We provide free instruments and classroom tech as needed. Our Grandmentors provide pedagogical guidance to our teaching fellows, to ensure they have the full weight of our musical community behind them as they enter their new classrooms.

Students are primarily from under-resourced backgrounds and Title I schools. We’re also working with homeless shelters and supportive housing programs to put instruments in the hands of their kids.