By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Muzak Heart & Soul Foundation aims to remix music education.
The foundation, based in Fort Mill, S.C., this summer will launch Noise, a camp to gear youngsters for a broad range of music careers.
To help fund the camp, the foundation will hold an auction in Charlotte Feb. 6 featuring items signed by celebrities ranging from President Bush and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani to pop stars Britney Spears and Kid Rock.
Formed in 1998 by Muzak, the music-and-message subscription service, the foundation has raised about $550,000 and contributed about $450,000 to more than 75 elementary, middle and high schools throughout the U.S.
The grants, ranging from $2,000 to $37,500, pay for instruments and support curriculum, teachers and student trips.
Traditionally, music education has involved “learning to read music and play an instrument,” says Kenny Kahn, the foundation’s president.
But preparing kids for jobs built around music will be the focus of Noise, a two-week camp that the foundation will hold this summer at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., for 40 students 15 to 17 years old.
The foundation then will work to help high schools build the camp’s approach into their curriculum.
“Kids want to have a life with music and yet not every kid wants to perform,” Kahn says.
The camp will include 20 counselors who will talk to youngsters about their careers in music ranging from journalism and concert promotion to stage production, equipment design and music programming.
“We’ll introduce these kids to role models who are already doing these things and help them write a life plan that keeps them involved with music,” Kahn says.
The Celebrity Music Auction, to be held at the Charlotte Convention Center, will feature guitars, albums, sheet music and collectibles, such as drum-heads and microphones, signed by artists ranging from Jim Hendrix and Michael Jackson to Faith Hill and Frank Sinatra.
The auction, open to the public and to 500 Muzak employees attending a company convention, also will include 50 copies – signed by celebrities – of a photographic essay on a big American-flag collection that also will be on display.
Muzak, which moved its headquarters temporarily to Charlotte from Seattle in 1999 before occupying permanent offices in Fort Mill in November 2000, has worked in recent years to revamp its brand and image.
The shift has been from the image of a company distributing older tunes fit for elevators to a modern firm marketing cutting-edge music targeted to help clients build their own brands, says Kahn, who also is Muzak’s senior vice president of marketing.
Muzak, which has 400,000 subscribers and helps raise money for its foundation through subscriber contributions, is looking to some of its big customers to co-sponsor the effort to make the camp curriculum available to public schools.
“We’re moving in the direction of Noise,” Kahn says. “This is about a life of music.”