I had a very nice conversation with an executive in the communications office at Fidelity. She was very helpful in both listening to my concerns (one hit wonder?) and then answering some of my skeptical questions. The main points I learned are:

Are the partners in it for the long haul? I will admit this is a tough question for someone to answer. All you can look at is history. Fidelity does have a long history of supporting programs. However, and this is important, this is only the SECOND program they have ever established at the corporate level for charitable purposes. The first is the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, which has a well-established history. Also consider Sir Paul has not gone into anything half heartedly… and the fact that this is being set-up as a separate non-profit… these are all strong signs that this is more than just a marketing stunt for the aging baby boomer business.
Will Music Lives Be an Independent Non-Profit? According to Fidelity, Music Lives will have a separate independent board of directors made up largely of music educators and experts related to the field. (They said the board would be named shortly.) It will not be a corporately controlled non-profit… but will benefit from the generous in-kind support to cover staffing, administration, as well as the marketing and promotional tie-ins (a $20 million ad campaign and a sold out concert tour doesn’t hurt!) to generate the base revenue of the organization. This is REALLY important. There have been other music ed based non-profits with corporate ties where the corporation's interests actually interfered with the mission of the non-profit. When the business tries to control the non-profit nothing good usually happens. It seems to me the structure Fidelity explained will go a long way to protect the foundation from any corporate interference.
Are they Reinventing the Wheel? According to Fidelity, Music Lives will primarily be a fund to support other programs that are doing great work. They will NOT have programs of their own. This makes some sense since there are plenty of great music education programs and non-profits that could use the support.
How Does Someone Apply? Like many umbrella funds (money generated for re-granting purposes) Music Lives plans on identifying programs for potential support and then inviting organizations to apply. It does not appear there will be an open application process for anyone. This is not an uncommon practice with this type of fund. The question will be “how does one get on their radar screen for consideration?” This I am sure will become clearer as they develop the overall organization model.

Even though the roadway is littered with the wreckage of corporate tie-ins to music education that have gone into the ditch, Fidelity deserves the benefit of the doubt. I do think they probably are sincere about the issue and love the tie-in with a music legend. Their intentions seem to support the broad goals of the music education community.
My only hope is that Fidelity/Sir Paul/Music Lives will work strategically with the rest of the field who have been fighting the good fight to ensure their effort have the greatest impact on the entire field, and that when the allure of the shiny new initiative wears off they are right there in the trenches, standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us fighting for this idea of music for all.

3 Responses

  1. Bob,
    Thank you for questioning the plan behind Fidelity’s Music Lives Foundation. Certainly, Fidelity and Sir Paul’s efforts will have a positive impact. However, we are still left with the uneasiness of knowing that nothing yet has been able to tip our nation toward music for all. It has not been for lack of trying!
    Perhaps we have just been missing some small things that could make a big difference (as Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book, The Tipping Point). One of these small but significant aspects is that most efforts to save or enhance music education have been designed from the top down. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in order to shift a population’s perspective, I believe that a bottom-up grassroots movement is necessary. The question, of course, is how to ignite one.
    The newly founded Center for Lifelong Music Making (www.lifelongmusicmaking.org) is exploring this idea. The Center is dedicated to fostering a musically able and active population based on the principle that those who are competent at something are usually the ones who appreciate and value it most. The Center welcomes collaboration with individuals and organizations toward this vision.
    Ann C. Kay, Director
    Center for Lifelong Music Making
    952-937-1110 (office/fax)

  2. I am interested in finding out how the proceeds from the fundraiser are utilized. How does this filter down to local levels? How can we help promote ” Music Lives” in local school districts where our children go to school? I have purchased my first bracelet at a recent McCartney concert and believe in the cause. We need to hear how concerned people can get involved. The Music Lives website does not give enough information. It is re-enforcing to hear knowledgeable people are in support.

  3. Bob and Ann,
    I think Paul McCartney is great and obviously this is a great cause. My wife Christina teaches singing and movement at pre-schools and day cares, but many can’t afford music.
    A Paul McCartney fan club wrote “Christina Purcell sings a heartfelt rendition of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ on her CD ‘Love’s Calling’.” They also got radio play for her in Sacramento and Reno.
    Patrick Purcell 408-378-7879 ccpurcell@bak.rr.com

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