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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

United Sound Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Educational Services

Mission: United Sound provides musical performance experiences to students with special needs through peer mentorship.

Results: In our first 5 years, United Sound has created musical opportunity for over 7,000 students. Those young people (mostly high school age) have contributed 170,000 volunteer hours, given 680 performances to over 1,000, audience members! We have a 96% retention rate of schools and have trained almost 4,000 teachers in the area of music and disability intersections.

Target demographics: young people with disabilties

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1978 students at 83 schools in 25 state

Geographic areas served: United Sound works through schools across the country

Programs: to get involved in school, college, and community based music programs through peer mentorship.

Community Stories

13 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I want to say how profoundly impactful this program has been in my life personally. Our concert in the Spring was highlighted by the United Sound performance. One of our Mentee Graduates asked if he could speak to the audience. Of course I said yes...and he thanked everyone for letting him be in the band and how much it meant to him to have good friends and be a part of the school in this way. I literally couldn't speak and we all were in tears.

Amanda L.9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

United Sound is not just about making music, it's about the bond and friendships that are made between the mentors and new musicians. It's about taking water breaks together, laughing about our mistakes, talking about your weekend, and seeing each other and waving in the hallways. United Sound is more than just a musician experience for these new musicians. It allows their other wise "hidden" potential to shine while having fun at the same time. These kids are truly extraordinary and being a part of this program allows high school and college students to appreciate music on a new level they never could quite imagine.

Advisor

Rating: 5


“Our experience with United Sound has reinforced to me the amazing power of music to reach a child in ways that classroom learning cannot. Our New Musicians and Peer Mentors have all grown as musicians, but more importantly, they have grown as humans, forging a common bond through the creation of art and beauty." -Bill Bitter, Orchestra Director, Highland High School

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter's experience with United Sound has been amazing. I never imagined she would play the cello! She looks so forward to her Monday practices and adores the peers who help her. I was able to meet her teacher and the students who work with her and I was blown away by their compassion and dedication. We are so blessed to be a part of this awesome program!

Advisor

Rating: 5

In Fall 2017, the Greenfield Junior High Band established its first chapter of United Sound. Without question, this is the single best decision I have ever made for my program and its students. Though there are countless benefits to running a United Sound club, I feel the primary benefit is student leadership.

I am not talking about typical junior high leadership where students make motions to host dances or spend money on pizza. I am talking about developing leadership where young students make a massive impact on the lives of others via compassion, enthusiasm, and teaching. This is a leadership that transforms all individuals involved, and betters our community.

As mentors, my students, learn to collaborate and problem solve with peers, to respect and find value in each others’ differences, to engage in meaningful conversations with a variety of peers (including those with special needs), and to prioritize others before themselves. They learn patience, accountability, and responsibility. They learn to listen. They learn to plan. They learn to think outside the box. They learn that people are always more important than a product. These are invaluable skills to gain at any age, let alone in junior high.

This is an example of how I’ve seen one of my student’s leadership grow. Last week we had two new musicians come into my room to hear the instruments that they could choose to play this year. A rather shy and awkward young man in concert band, who rarely speaks up or raises his hand, is the first to ask me if he can set-up a table of sample instruments for the new musicians. He then takes it upon himself to make the table look professional and clean, puts all of the cases away, and then brings over his peers to stand at the ready so they can play a sample of music. He assesses which instruments are missing, and asks students from those sections to come over. These are all things he wasn’t asked to do. He saw a need and acted upon it. United Sound provided him a meaningful opportunity to lead! He wasn’t doing this to impress me or for accolades. He was doing this to serve others with joy!

The by-product of a growing United Sound program, is a classroom full of empowered, thoughtful, and caring young people. I can not think of a more desirable outcome in education. I fully support United Sound and its impact on each student involved.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our school in Gilbert AZ is blessed with amazing band directors and a special education teacher who make our son's life extra special with musical experiences. He was able to march with HIS band and was on cloud 9 for weeks! These instructors understand it is not about perfection but about joy and growth for all involved.

2 Matt K.2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

United Sound is undoubtedly one of the best programs I have had the pleasure of implementing within my band program. To get the opportunity to work with special needs students and watch the joy it brings them when playing an instrument is something I am grateful for. I look forward to my Thursdays...because I know the day will end on a bright note! I cannot wait to continue this program for years to come, and help special needs students have a musical experience that they will never forget.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

It is my honor to provide a statement of support for United Sound. We are beginning our 3rd year with our United Sound band at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We are extremely proud to be the first United Sound band in Virginia. I hope to illustrate for you impact of the the endless support and mentorship for myself and our band directors, the instructional resources and tools, and ultimately the immeasurable impact for all our our students. Spring 3 years ago, after seeing United Sound on the social media page of a composer, my band director sent me a text and said, “we need this!”. I sent an email to Julie Duty at United Sound introducing myself and our band program, and immediately heard back from her. We (the band directors, Julie and myself) quickly began our relationship through phone calls, email and FaceTime. That began our journey to bring instrumental music instruction to students with Intellectual and Developmental disabilities. It also began a relationship that continues to grow and flourish to support each other and our student musicians. Fast forward to the fall of the next year, and we were off and running! The FREE tools and resources provided by United Sound made this program so easy to start. The first step was getting approval from administration, which was not a problem at all, especially due to adding such value for our students for minimal cost. Next was peer mentor recruiting and training and new musician invitations, which was all guided by the resources provided by United Sound. We followed the guides, prepped our peer mentors, and got excited our first rehearsal. Finally, that day came and it brought with it a level of magic, excitement, and awesomeness that uncomparable. From that day forward, United Sound rehearsal became known to us as “the best part of the week”. In our Instrumental music program, we strive to remove barriers for all students, and have trained other educators in Virginia and across the country on best practices for creating equitable and inclusive programs. The opportunity to provide instrumental music instruction to students with significant disabilities was still something we would have struggled to achieve if not for United Sound. United Sound was the key for us to truly make Music for All a reality at Harrisonburg High School.

1 jthye

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This special program has given my band students the opportunity to be mentors to students that they may have otherwise not been in contact with during the school day. The benefits of this interaction have been widely discussed from the angle of the 'new musician' or students with special needs, but I truly believe this experience is life-changing for my mentor students. They are learning to work through social, physical, and language barriers solely through the language of music. It is a powerful reminder of the gift of music and the power we have inside each and every one of us to affect another life. It is impossible to not smile when you see the eyes of a new musician light up. They are so proud of themselves, and they are not afraid to show it. The world could use a little more of this kind of genuine and unbridled joy.

2 Russ R.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

We began our relationship with United Sound in the fall of 2017, and had an extremely successful year. Our new students and mentors grew exponentially through the process, and are eager to begin the second year in the program. Ms. Duty and her staff were extremely well organized and were available to answer any and all questions, and provide any additional support and materials that we needed to insure the success of our students.

Both new students and mentors are already talking about getting started this year. We will have both first year students and second year students, and will be joined again by our wonderful life skills teacher, Mr. Randy Firth.

This program has touched our entire music and educational community and is worthy of any and all financial support that can be made available to them. I am ready and eager to answer any and all questions that you might have regarding our participation in and commitment to this very worthwhile program.

Russ Rutherford
Director of Fine Arts
Director of Bands
Gainesville ISD
Gainesville, TX

1 Rhoda B.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have known about the the work that United Sound does for several years, and I believe that it exemplifies what it means to be a strong organization whose work makes a tremendous difference in the lives of teachers and students. Collaborating with United Sound has been one of the great joys of the last few years. Together, we have partnered on a United Sound chapter here at Berklee, along with several professional development initiatives for music teachers and special education teachers in the areas of arts education, inclusion, and special needs. United Sound is an organization that creates opportunities for teachers all over the country and is a creator with a vision for making music a meaningful part of people’s lives.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I signed up for United Sound to be a Peer Mentor to gain friendships and unique experiences that I wouldn’t get to experience otherwise, and I’ve been a Peer Mentor for other groups before, but not for a music group. The group met the expectations of me gaining experiences and new perspectives like I thought I would. But I didn’t realize that I would be “teaching” as much as I do. United Sound has changed my experiences with those with special needs, even though I’m a special education- intense intervention major. It helped me realize that labels that would normally follow someone around in an educational setting really mean nothing. Especially in music.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This has been the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do with my special ed kids in all 25 years I’ve been teaching. It’s truly the best experience I’ve had in my entire teaching career. The mentors that are coming in and working with my students are here every single week! In comparison, I ran another club on this campus a long time ago, and getting those general ed kids to participate regularly was like night and day. These kids are here every week with smiles and working with my kids. I've watched the mentors (general ed students) grow just as much as my special education students -- and that's incredible.