An Interview with Suzanne D’Addario Brouder, Director of the D’Addario Foundation
Teaching Guitar Workshops – What’s the mission of the D’Addario Foundation?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – The primary mission of the D’Addario Foundation is to support community based organizations that are bringing music instruction to underserved areas. Our main goal is to make the opportunity to study music as accessible as possible and we believe that music can positively affect social change.
Teaching Guitar Workshops – The D’Addario Foundation has developed some concerts for great young and up-and-coming guitarists. Can you tell us about why this is a priority?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – The D’Addario Foundation was established over 30 years to do just that – support the next generation of up and coming classical guitarists and provide them with performance opportunities. The back story is that at the time, around 1980, we had perfected a professional quality classical guitar string. Our goal was to support the careers of these young artists with performance opportunities and an exceptional product. 30 years later we decided to re-launch that series as a way of honoring our legacy but also supporting artists. The level of talent is so incredibly high today but there seem to be limited performance opportunities for these deserving artists.
Teaching Guitar Workshops – The performances also promote new music and premiers. Why is this a priority?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – We encourage our presenting artists to perform new or less well-known works mainly to attract an audience. Not only can we offer a patron the opportunity to see a young artist debut at Carnegie Hall or in the U.S., but that patron is also going to have the opportunity to hear a varied and colorful program. Being a concert presenter is tough business in NY and in order to be competitive we try and provide as unique an experience for our attendees as possible. It also doesn’t hurt to push artists to not just perform the status-quo. Many of them relish the opportunity to perform different works and we generally attract a pretty sophisticated audience that is interested in hearing something different.
Teaching Guitar Workshops – What two or three strategic issues is the D’Addario Foundation trying to tackle?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – The primary issue we are addressing head on is trying to fill the gap where arts and music programs have been cut from schools. We truly believe that music plays a vital role in the growth and development of children increasing their language and math skills while encouraging creative expression, innovative thinking, and discipline. We work very hard to identify and align ourselves with very high-quality programs that have strong leadership and a vision for the future. Another more recent strategic issue for us is to increase our scale and impact. We can only do this by convincing the world of the power and importance of music education and actively fundraising to make it possible to serve more children and adults. Another exciting development for us is the recent creation our own direct service program. In partnership with the Harmony Program in NYC, we provide free instruments and lessons in violin, viola and cello to 3rd and 4th grade students from the Copiague School District on Long Island 3 days a week. We identified this school because first a great majority of our employees children attend and the school has not had a string program in over 30 years. We are interested in serving our local community and also using the data from this program to try and build support for initiatives like this throughout the country.
Teaching Guitar Workshops – GAMA works with thousands of music educators who have the important job of influencing many, many young people. At the same time, many of our teachers struggle with budgets, time, and a host of other hardships that go along with being educators. Can you offer any advice or words of wisdom?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – The D’Addario Foundation has a soft spot for music educators. Teachers are truly on the front-line, doing all of the hard work and unfortunately now have the task of not only running their programs but coping with the need to be savvy business people writing grants and running fundraisers to acquire more resources and support. As an organization we wish we could help all of them but we try to identify those teachers running not-for-profits that need our support as an essential source of their funding, those educators with a strong vision for growth and sustainability of their programming, and those with the creative energy and ability to overcome these obstacles. I think educators have to be more vocal and less insular speaking in a language that their school officials and the general public will understand. They also can’t be afraid to ask. I have seen teachers have success on donorschose.org acquiring supplies for their programs for example.
Teaching Guitar Workshops – How do you measure success at the D’Addario Foundation?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – The ultimate measure of success for us would be to see the study of music become universally available, acceptable and celebrated.
Teaching Guitar Workshops – What challenges do you face as a foundation director?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – I feel very lucky to be the director of the D’Addario Foundation as we have a strong name, culture and varied brand portfolio behind us. The main challenge I face as a director of this particular foundation is trying to impress upon the greater public the benefits of music education and the dire need right now to make it a priority. Up until now the D’Addario Foundation has relied solely on the generosity of D’Addario and Company to provide us with a percent of the net profits to dedicate to our not-for-profit partners. While this will continue, we hope to increase our scale and impact by beginning to solicit support and fundraising. Another very positive challenge for me is to try and align the work we do at D’Addario and Company with the assistance we give through the D’Addario Foundation. It is important that we constantly leverage our resources and opportunities.
Teaching Guitar Workshops – What is the end goal for the foundation? Do you think you will ever be able to say, “our work is done”?
Suzanne D’Addario Brouder – I guess we could ideally say our work in this area is done when we see the resurgence of music education as a primary element of all school curriculum and something that is available to students regardless of their socio-economic means. But I think we will have to go beyond even that and really convince future generations of the power and joy you can achieve by playing an instrument or being a music appreciator. It would be great if people talked about music as much as they talked about their favorite television shows and kids would jam together instead of playing Minecraft. The D’Addario Foundation will always commit itself to supporting musicians and helping to create more music makers in any way possible.