21 Music-Related Charities That Rock
With the holiday season in full swing, many folks are opening their hearts and wallets to include charitable giving in their annual celebrations. Since music is our passion at MusicFestNews, we’ve put together a list of music-related charities that give back to the musicians that bring us so much joy as well as preserve their legacy through outreach and education. We’ve also included some of our favorite artists whose charitable works reach far beyond the music world.
There are literally hundreds of music-related charities in existence Some are well known and long-established with a national and international reach. Others are much smaller and newer with narrower geographic focuses but that have big impacts in the communities they serve. We’re sure we’ve missed some of your favorites, but here’s a list of ours.
Recording Academy MusiCares
Founded in 1989 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, MusiCares aids musicians who have fallen on hard times and who often have nowhere to turn for help when facing a wide range of medical, financial or personal emergencies. MusiCares partners with outstanding artists like Aerosmith, Dolly Parton, Perry Ferrell, Eric Church and many more to raise funds and awareness for its charitable endeavors, including a free addiction recovery program offered to musicians in cities across the U.S. Learn how to get involved with MusiCares by clicking here.
Sweet Relief Musicians Fund
Established in 1994, Sweet Relief Musicians Fund helps career musicians who are experiencing illness, disability or age-related problems. The organization provides financial assistance to help pay medical bills and for food, shelter and other basic necessities. Working across the U.S., Sweet Relief Musicians Fund offers donors myriad ways to get involved, including donating to its regional funds and those earmarked for specific genres. See how you can help by clicking here.
The oldest nonprofit of its kind in the United States, the Musicians Foundation, was established in 1914 by The Bohemians, a prestigious New York musicians club. For more than a century, the foundation has assisted musicians and their families in times of emergency, offering relief from crushing financial burdens so that artists can continue their careers. Over the years, music luminaries like Enrico Caruso, Leonard Bernstein, Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern, Meredith Monk, and Wynton Marsalis have been active in the charity’s efforts. Find out more about the Musicians Foundation here.
New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic
Founded by a coalition of music advocates in 1998, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic is the first of its kind in the country to address artists’ health needs, both mental and physical, and the challenges that are unique to musicians. The clinic offers occupational and comprehensive and affordable health services for musicians, performers, cultural workers and tradition bearers of New Orleans. Get involved with the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic here.
After several tragedies struck the music industry in 2019, dozens of music professionals got together to start Backline, an industry-wide mental health initiative. The organization connects artists, music professionals and their families with mental health and wellness resources. Backline partners with a number of health and wellness organizations including Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, SIMS Foundation, and Entertainment Health Services, to name a few. The collective is supported by some well-known names in the music industry, including Circles Around The Sun, Umphrey’s McGee, Cloud 9 Adventures, HeadCount and more. See how you can help Backline here.
Jazz Foundation of America
Founded in 1989 by jazz greats Dr. Billy Taylor, Phoebe Jacobs, Ann Ruckertt, Cy Blank and Herb Storfer, the Jazz Foundation of America was first started to preserve and promote the legacy of this uniquely American art form To achieve this mission, they soon realized they also needed to preserve the artists who toiled in a fast-changing music industry that often left them behind. Lack of royalty payments, illness, old age, accidents, and other disasters can derail promising careers. That’s where the foundation steps in to provide disaster relief, free medical care, emergency financial assistance, and employment opportunities. Learn how to get involved with the Jazz Foundation of America here.
VH1 Save The Music Foundation
Among the best-known music foundations, VH1 Save The Music Foundation was established in 1997 by MTV Executive John Sykes with a goal of revitalizing school music programs. To do this, the foundation partners with local school districts to invest in schools, support teachers and advocate for music education. So far, they have helped over 2,000 schools across the U.S. build sustainable music programs. Learn more about VH1 Save The Music Foundation here.
IBMA Bluegrass Trust Fund
Established by The International Bluegrass Music Association in 1987, The Bluegrass Trust Fund assists musicians in times of emergency need. Patterned after similar non-profits, the fund has helped over 800,000 artists who might otherwise be sidelined illness, financial stress or other personal emergencies. Learn more about the IBMA Bluegrass Trust Fund here.
Hungry For Music
Founded in 1997, Hungry For Music aims to place musical instruments in the hands of underserved children in the U.S. and around the world – children who might otherwise never be able to experience the joys of artistic expression due to economic hardships. To date, the organization has given away 13,000 instruments to children in 49 states and 30 countries. Get involved with Hungry For Music here.
Girls Rock Camp Alliance
International in scope, Girls Rock Camp Alliance is a membership network and nonprofit of youth-centered arts and social justice organizations. The 20-year-old nonprofit seeks to empower girls and gender-fluid youth through the power of music and the arts. It provides resources and space to members building inclusive communities where creativity is turned into a powerful tool for societal change. Join Girls Rock Camp Alliance here.
Little Kids Rock
The brainchild of California school teacher David Wish, Little Kids Rock was founded in 2002 with the support of music luminaries like Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt. The non-profit supplies musical instruments and education resources at no cost to school districts around the country in order to restore and preserve music programs. Their curriculum teaches youngsters how to compose and play the musical genres they already love. Thus far, the organization has served 650,000 students across the nation. See how you can help Little Kids Rock here.
The Roots of Music
Based in New Orleans, The Roots of Music was created by Rebirth Brass Band snare drummer Derrick Tabb and businesswoman Allison Reinhardt to empower the city’s children ages 9-14 through music education, mentorship, and academic support. With a goal of preserving New Orleans’ rich musical and cultural heritage in mind, the non-profit operates an after-school program for at-risk youth that includes music and academic tutoring. Kids get the chance to showcase their skills in the group’s Roots of Music Marching Crusaders, a marching band that has performed at numerous events including Mardi Gras, Essence Music Festival and the inauguration of Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards. See how to get involved with The Roots of Music here.
Trombone Shorty Foundation
Founded in 2013 by world-renowned trombonist and bandleader Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, the Trombone Shorty Foundation carries on the time-honored tradition of passing down New Orleans’ unique musical heritage to the city’s youth. The foundation partners with The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and Fredman Music Business Institute to provide underserved students with a comprehensive education that includes instruction in music, academics, and the music business. In addition, Andrews and many of the city’s best-known musicians serve as teachers and mentors. Students and graduates of the program often move onto performing at venues and events in the city as well as around the nation and worldwide. Learn how you can help the Trombone Shorty Foundation here.
Guitars Not Guns
Guitars Not Guns was started in 2000 by California-based activists Ray and Louis Nelson who, as foster parents, had been providing kids with guitars and lessons since 1992. The non-profit grew to include chapters around the country charged with a mission to provide foster children and at-risk youth with musical instruments and music instruction. Guitars Not Guns raises money through auctions of donated guitars signed by professional musicians, fund-raising events and direct donations. See how you can help Guitars Not Guns here.
Johnson Ohana Foundation
Founded in 2008 by Jack Johnson and his wife Kim, the Johnson Ohana Foundation promotes positive and lasting change within communities by supporting organizations that focus on environmental, art and music education. The foundation builds relationships with grantees offering music and arts education primarily in California and Hawaii, Johnson’s home state. Look here for more information about the Johnson Ohana Foundation.
The WaterWheel Foundation
In 1997, Phish created The WaterWheel Foundation to oversee its charitable activities. While the foundation consistently supports non-profits in Vermont, their home state, WaterWheel’s touring division is tasked with selecting and raising funds for local charities in the communities the band visits on tour stops. It raises money at each show through fan donations, sales of WaterWheel logo merchandise and items autographed by the band. WaterWheel chooses a broad spectrum of non-profits including those that focus on food banks, urban gardening, land conservation, clean water, and social service organizations benefitting women and children. Get involved with The WaterWheel Foundation here.
The Rex Foundation
From their earliest days, The Grateful Dead received countless requests for help from community organizations and they became well known for their generosity and frequent benefit concerts. In 1983, members of the band established The Rex Foundation as a non-profit charity with a focus on efforts to promote individuality in the arts, support critical social services, protect the rights of indigenous people, build strong communities and educate children and adults everywhere. Since its inception, The Rex Foundation has given $9 million in grants to 1,300 receipts. Learn more about The Rex Foundation here.
Galactic, the much-beloved guardians of New Orleans funk and new owners of Tipitina’s, a legendary Crescent City music institution, founded the Tip-It Foundation just this year. Administered by The Greater New Orleans Foundation, the nonprofit supports and promotes the future of the Gulf South’s music, culture and heritage via Tipitina’s venue and brand. Tip-It Foundation works with like-minded charities to further these goals. See how you can help Tip-It Foundation here.
Fans who’ve participated in one of Cloud 9 Adventures wildly fun and successful destination music events are well familiar with Positive Legacy and their good works. For those not in the know, Positive Legacy is a non-profit that works in conjunction with its parent company Cloud 9 Adventures to coordinate environmental and humanitarian service projects that attend to the needs of the communities they visit. Beginning as a grassroots, fan-based initiative in 2004 and becoming an official 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2010, Positive Legacy partners with musicians, music industry groups and other non-profits to achieve its goals. Fueled by the power of music, it has coordinated service projects in places like Costa Maya, Roatan, Grand Cayman, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti and more. Get involved with Positive Legacy here.
Life Under The Wheel
Founded in 2017, Life Under The Wheel is a fan-based non-profit seeking to share the music festival experience with music lovers who are living with a life-threatening illness. The organization’s goal is to provide these fans with a sense of community, joy, positivity and long-lasting memories through the power of music. Life Under The Wheel Partners with festivals like Bonnaroo, Forecastle, Life is Beautiful and more to curate unique experiences for its beneficiaries. The group has also formed relationships with music industry corporate entities, such as AC Entertainment and Everfest, which contribute to the grant program’s success. Learn how you can help Life Under The Wheel here.
Live Oak Music and Arts Foundation
The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is a magical, one-of-a-kind venue in Live Oak, Florida, where numerous amazing music festivals, including Suwannee Spring Reunion and Suwannee Roots Revival, take place surrounded by 800 acres of nature’s beauty. Building on the success of these two festivals, promoters Randy and Beth Judy looked for ways to show their gratitude Live Oak community by giving something back. In 2001, the started Live Oak Music and Arts Foundation that raises funds that go to local school programs, instrument donation efforts, and music and arts programs in hospitals, detention centers, and community centers. The foundation also sponsors the Suwannee Spirit Kids Music Camp held four times annually at SOSMP. Get involved with Live Oak Music and Arts Foundation here.
The music community is filled with generous spirits and philanthropic organizations that give back. And music fans are among the most generous, accepting souls out there. While there are too many worthy music-related charities to list here, we hope the ones above will help crystallize your desire to give back to a community that makes life so much sweeter. Tell us your favorites and then go be a force for good in the world.