Earlier this year, Eddie Van Halen donated 75 electric guitars from his personal collection to the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports music education in public schools across the country.
Per Van Halen's request, the Foundation distributed the guitars to music programs in public schools throughout the Los Angeles area where there are not enough instruments to meet the demand of students enrolled.
"Music is the universal language. It has the ability to transcend and convey every human emotion that exists without saying a word,” said Eddie. “Music kept me off the streets and out of trouble and gave me something that was mine that no one could take away from me. Music education and families are dealing with the economic times, and I wanted to help them. If I can help a kid discover a liking, or even a passion for music in their life, then that's a wonderful thing. Music has provided a good life for me and hopefully it can help make life better for others with this donation."
Eddie found time in his schedule during rehearsals for the band’s “A Different Kind Of Truth” tour to pay a personal visit to the Foundation.
A few months later, during an extensive interview with The Examiner, Felice Mancini, the executive director of The Foundation spoke at length about the program, its mission, and the spotlight Van Halen helped shine on their cause.
“In fact, this is funny, because this is how a lot of people find us and start good, strong, happy relationships with us,” explained Mancini. “Eddie’s management company knew that Eddie wanted to give these guitars away. He didn’t want to sell them, he didn’t want to auction them, he wanted them to go to schools — to kids who would actually play them. They did a search and we came up. We usually do if somebody types in “music charity” or whatever. They called and said, “We have a client who is interested in doing this,” and they talked to us for a long time. They were just doing their due diligence. Eddie wanted it to be a credible charity where he knew that his wishes would be honored. We had several conversations back and forth. This went on over a period of months; it wasn’t a “pick up the phone and it happened.” They did not tell us who it was until they were sure that they liked us and that we were the ones. And we found out and we thought, Whoa! OK! Wonderful! We found some schools for them and they said, “We can make this announcement.” The timing with the tour — it wasn’t all that strategic. It just happened that the stuff came out when it did because Eddie was very busy rehearsing. He didn’t really have the time to do it before, so we had to wait until he was ready. We just wanted the guitars to get to the schools during the school year so that they could use them. Like you said, it was like a perfect storm, and we couldn’t believe how this thing kind of blew up. It was really wonderful.”
Eddie’s personal touch helped get the donation off to the right start.
“He has a very dedicated and wonderful guitar tech who came to our office and talked to our program director, and he brought the first batch of guitars over,” said Felice. “It took a long time also because he wanted to test each guitar and make sure it was in perfect shape and ready to leave there. So he worked on these guitars, they’re new instruments, and they came over in batches when they were all ready. We knew where they were all going. We started calling teachers to tell them, because we didn’t tell the teachers where they were coming from, so that was a huge surprise for them. And they were thrilled! Some people said, ‘Oh my god, you should have him sign the guitars and you should put them on eBay!’ We said, ‘No, that’s not his wish. He wants these kids to have this experience. He wants the kids to benefit.’ So that’s what happened. He came to our office with his lovely wife and took some pictures with the staff. He’s a lovely man and very shy. It was fun. Eddie’s wife was delightful; they were just so happy that this happened. Eddie did sincerely want to feel that he gave something back, and he did. It was win-win all the way around.”
As for how many L.A. schools were involved, Mancini says “There were seven schools that we had previously worked with. We knew that they were secure and had programs that could use them, we already knew the teachers, so it worked out well.”
More information about Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation can be found at www.mhopus.org.
Read the full interview with Felice Mancini at The Examiner here.
Van Halen wrapped up the first leg of their “A Different Kind Of Truth” tour last month in New Orleans. The band is taking the summer off before heading to Japan for a series of shows in November.
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