Who Knew? The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation

We've all the seen the movie, but who knew there was also a foundation?

After creating the film score for the 1995 Film Mr. Holland's Opus, film composer Michael Kamen founded the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation (See Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation: Grants for Music) in 1996. With a firm belief that music education was an endangered species in public school systems around the nation, Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation began with the goal, and remains dedicated to, keeping music alive and well in our nation's schools.

Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation does not award cash grants. Instead, the foundation provides musical instruments and pays for the cost of refurbishing existing instruments for schools that have little or no funds to do so themselves. Schools must also have an established musical program and be a Title I school, meaning that the school resides in an area in which 50% of its schoolchildren qualify for free or reduced lunch. The small but powerful foundation allows over 10,000 students a year to explore their musical talents and abilities.

Being as small as it is, with only four employees and $2.6 million in revenue, Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation uses creative and unique fundraising methods to further its cause of keeping music programs from becoming extinct in the nation's public schools. For instance, the foundation recently held the second annual "Big Beat," where drummers in 14 states began playing at the same time, raising $25,000. They also held a "Karaoke in the Capital" event, where politicians, media, and special interest groups put their political ideals aside to, as they put it, "have fun, sing poorly and donate to a worthwhile cause." And donations to the foundation aren't always monetary. Eddie Van Halen donated 75 guitars from his personal collection to the foundation for instance.

Sadly, founder Michael Kamen, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, passed away in 2003. Not only does Kamen's legacy live on in his musical contributions with a wide range of musicians, including Metallica, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, but his dedicated staff and volunteers remain true to his vision of keeping music programs in public schools and musical instruments in the hands of school children.