Play It Forward: the Brooklyn non-profit hoping to offer donation-based music lessons


Words by Michael Beck

When I was nine years old my parents made the best and worst decision of their lives–they bought me a snare drum. To them, it was a thing besides school that would distract me from playing video games. But they had no idea how much it would change my life.

For one, my obsession with the drums has ensured the fact that I am a happy but extremely busy adult. The reality of playing music for a living is that you most likely aren’t playing music for a living. Almost every one of my friends, myself included, has a day job. I’ve been working in restaurants for the past 10 years, and while it’s a fun and fast-paced (often wild) environment where you meet lots of amazing people, the hours are soul crushing. I get home from work at 4am, wake up by 10am. to try to be at my rehearsal studio by noon and leave from there to get to work by 4pm. Rinse and repeat. Mix that in with an expensive city like NYC and you have yourself yet another starving artist story.

You might ask yourself why musicians go through so many hardships to play music. Especially since it seems like a lot of us are only playing gigs in back rooms at bars for crowds of 20 people or less. Honestly, most of us can probably remember a time when we’ve stopped and asked ourselves, “Why am I doing this?”

The answer is simple really – it’s worth it. We love it. We love it because music silences all the external noise in our daily lives. Because the simple joy of learning a new lick reminds us that ‘it’s the little things in life that count.’ And because sharing a part of yourself – something you’ve created – with someone, anyone, everyone is a beautiful gift that only you can offer. Because it doesn’t matter if I got a bad tip at work last night. I get to wake up the next day and create something and –hopefully- share it with someone.

This is why I’m starting Play It Forward, a Brooklyn non-profit that will offer donation-based music lessons to beginners. My hope is that we can cultivate a supply and demand for both sides of the musician and non-musician relationship. Teachers will have an opportunity to meet new students and make money while doing it. Students will have the chance to learn an array of new instruments without having to make a huge time or money commitment. We think that by inspiring more people to learn how to play music, some of them will invest in private lessons with any number of the amazing music schools in NYC. Eventually, some of these students will turn out to be the next Jay Z or Derek Trucks, but all of them will realize that they are an individual with a unique voice.

I simply want to create more students and lovers of music. I want there to be a public place where creativity can flourish. Where people can come in and learn something new. With so many musicians, artists, writers and actors in New York, this space will be a hub of performance and education.

Our kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday evening (talk about sense of urgency!). We have already raised 2/3 of our goal but need help with the last push. We’re hoping we can create a place where being yourself is encouraged and rocking out is mandatory.

For more information visit and wish us luck.