As school districts across the country struggle with tighter and tighter budgets, many programs have faced the chopping block. Art and music have been especially frequent targets. For three Carlson School students, the loss of music education was a tune they were just too tired of hearing. In 2010, these three and two other University of Minnesota students founded the Youth Music Education Foundation (YMEF), an organization to provide scholarships to young people who have the desire, talent, and commitment, but lack the money to study music.
"The benefits of music education are enormous - students learn to think creatively, solve problems, and express themselves," says Seth Saeugling, president of the YMEF Board of Directors and currently studying business management and sustainability studies at the Carlson School. "Music teaches kids to conquer fears and take risks, helps people learn second languages, and improves reading skills. The problem is that students across the country are being robbed of these benefits through budget cuts. YMEF exists to help these children in need experience the benefits and joys of music."
Since its founding, YMEF has partnered with the School of Rock, a music school that operates three locations in Minnesota; and the Hiawatha Leadership Academy, an open-enrollment charter school in South Minneapolis that serves 452 students. YMEF co-founder and treasurer Ryan Manteufel, a sophomore majoring in management information systems and finance, says one of the best experiences to be had in this organization is hearing the students play their music and showcase their talents. "It helped me realize that all the work I was doing was making a large difference in these kids' lives," he says.
YMEF originally began as a short-term Entrepreneurship Team project for Carlson's student Entrepreneurship Club to establish a scholarship fund for youth in need to attend the School of Rock. "At first, we just wanted a simple structure to fund learning and self-expression through rock." says Muhammad Abdurrahman, vice-president of the YMEF Board of Directors who studies entrepreneurship at Carlson and linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts. "Then we saw the opportunity to help even more kids and give other students the opportunity to gain real experience in their major areas building and running a company."
From just five original founders, YMEF has grown into a much larger operation, with 18 members who work to benefit the more than 470 youth in need throughout the Twin Cities that benefit from the joy of receiving a music education. So far, YMEF has provided more than 40 scholarships for students to attend the School of Rock and has donated various music supplies and instruments for Hiawatha Leadership Academy to further students' exposure to music. "Developing my own musical abilities has improved my character and my quality of life. However, I grew up in a situation where I was exposed to music early and often as a child," says Alex Kent, a marketing and non-profit management major who serves as YMEF's public relations director. "YMEF works to give all kids the opportunity to take advantage of their musical talents, not just the kids as lucky as I was."
YMEF is a fully student-run, 501c3 non-profit and Saeugling and the others operate all aspects of the business, including marketing, sales, customer service, operations, web development, hiring, team building, retention strategies, and more. "Learning by doing is incredibly rewarding. The beauty of YMEF is that first you help youth in need experience the joy of music, second you learn entrepreneurship hands-on, by doing," Saeugling says.
YMEF is currently looking to grow its donor base and connect with business and philanthropic organizations who share the same passion for providing funding for youth in need to attain a music education.
More information about YMEF and its activities can be found at ymefusa.com.