TAMPA — Glen Schubert wanted to start an organization to give at-risk kids an opportunity to find purpose in music, so he wrote a business plan in the late 1990s.
His plans came together about four and a half years ago, when he and his wife, Kelly, started the nonprofit organization Instruments of Change in Brandon.
Now the stars are aligning again Saturday when Instruments of Change holds its first major benefit concert, "Play it Forward," at the Straz Center, featuring local country artist Caroline Kole and the 100 local students who have been practicing for weeks to be her opening act.
Kole's band and other local musicians will spend Saturday morning with the students for a half-day music camp. Then it's one last practice before the big show.
"They've only been playing it for seven weeks and they are amazing, because they have something to look forward to," said Torianne Valdez, marketing and events manager for Instruments of Change.
The program has reached about 500 kids in its four and a half years, Schubert said. The nonprofit organization pairs with programs like Boys and Girls Clubs, churches and Title I elementary schools. Instructors spend an hour with students twice a week teaching them a musical instrument. Students who successfully complete the program and sign up for middle school band get to keep their instruments.
Learning an instrument isn't for everyone, Schubert said. But kids should get the chance to try. Schubert's father played the piano, and music education was important in his family, he said.
"The goal is to make sure that money is not a barrier for kids who want to play," he said.
Tom Ziegelhofer of Tampa volunteered with Instruments of Change a few months ago. The professional trumpet player and retired band director and school administrator helped in recruiting the four middle school band directors who are working with the students in preparation for Saturday's performance at Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center.
He echoed what is often said about music education: Studies show students who learn an instrument are more likely to score higher in math and language arts, and to graduate high school and attend college.
"They're learning a different language," he said. "It forces them to concentrate in a different way that they're not used to."
"Music seems to be another outlet for at-risk students, where they can learn something they've never really learned before," he said. "You don't have to have natural ability. You can teach a student through rote and practice to play a musical instrument."
About 20 people are involved, including board members, committee members, staff and instructors. Some instructors are paid through grants. Much of the staff is volunteer.
"We want to keep overhead low so gifts go to the programs," Schubert said. Instruments are expensive, and accessories such as strings, reeds and books add to the cost.
But Schubert and Valdez hope Saturday's concert will serve as the organization's introduction to the community, and help bring in more volunteers and donations.
They'd like to expand the program and build chapters in other areas. Schubert says it's not just an investment in children.
"It really improves the community overall," he said. "It really is an investment in the community."
Keeley Sheehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2453.