Our Inception in 2013
After our June 2013 experience with the Youth Orchestra of the Lower 9th Ward, Ed Vigdor met with Todd in Los Angeles on July 10, 2013, to discuss the potential formation of a true non-profit foundation, its potential vision, mission and structure. Todd agreed that it was an idea worthy of exploration, so Jean Lachowicz and Ed went about the task of actually formulating a strategic plan, a mission statement and the vision for how we would go about the work of supporting music education for children.
One core aspect of the Foundation’s mission would be to uniquely weave together the various elements, components and programs that support and advocate for opportunities for children to have access to music education and to express themselves through performance opportunities… all working together, harmoniously: thus “The Spirit of Harmony”!
The name, Spirit Of Harmony, was taken from the Utopia song, “Singring and the Glass Guitar,” which tells the story of four brave adventurers overcoming obstacles and challenges to free Singring, the muse and spirit of a town named Harmony, who was imprisoned in a glass guitar by jealous forces.
On October 24, 2013, Jean flew to Los Angeles from Chicago, so that she and Ed could present the formal proposal to Todd for the foundation. At the conclusion of that 90 minute meeting, the Articles of Incorporation were signed and the Spirit of Harmony was formally established as a corporate entity.
Over the course of the Foundation’s existence, Todd has continually applied his innovative vision to further refine and focus of the foundation’s mission and how it would be accomplished. Todd is the visionary leader and public face, and he believes that the Foundation will best achieve its goals if it functions at the grassroots, local level.
Corporate and 501(c)(3) Status
The Foundation is incorporated in the State of Illinois as a non-profit organization. Our application for non-profit status with the Internal Revenue Service was filed on December 30, 2013 and on June 6, 2014, the foundation received the designation letter from the IRS that the application for 501(c)(3) status was approved, determining that the organization is fully tax-exempt. A process that can take as much as three years took us less than six months.
Todd officially announced the formation of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation at the NAMM Convention in Anaheim, CA on January 24, 2014.
NAMM Convention 2014. (l to r): Board Chairman Ed Vigdor, Vice President Michele Rundgren, President and Founder Todd Rundgren, and Executive Director Jean Lachowicz.
Evolution of Todd’s Vision for SOHF
The Foundation continually evolves to best meet the needs of music education programs around the United States. When Todd visited the Dr. Nina Kraus’ Brainvolts Lab at Northwestern University in April 2014, he was greatly impressed by the scientific research that proves early childhood instrument-based music education makes lifelong changes to the human brain. That led to our Symposium on the Moral Imperative of Music Education at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in April 2015, where a panel of experts from across the nation presented the latest information on the Biological, Social, Academic, and Economic benefits of music education.
Despite the compelling empirical evidence that music education improves the lives of children in every way, funding for music programs across the United States continues to be cut. To maximize the impact of the Foundation’s efforts, Todd steered our vision sharply away from fundraising in favor of relationship-building. Todd does not want an organization that simply raises money and hands out grants.
Under Todd’s direction, the Foundation created a Music Education Advocacy Toolkit, which presents a continually-updated collection of articles and research about the benefits of music education. The purpose of the Toolkit is two-fold. Its primary purpose is to offer local programs with the ammunition they need to make the case for funding and support of their own program. Its secondary purpose is to provide researchers, journalists, policy-makers, and activists with a handy way to access the best information in one place!
In 2015-2016, the Foundation began development of a database that helps match the needs of music programs with the resources that fulfill those needs. Our Ensemble program is extremely hands-on, as Foundation staff and volunteers develop close working relationships with individual music programs, offering networking, advice, and material donations to meet their specific needs. In developing Ensemble, we create partnerships with organizations that can help the music programs we have thoroughly researched and adhere to our vision.
By the latter part of 2016, the Spirit of Harmony Foundation teamed up with University of Notre Dame to present TR@ND, eleven days that included an academic residency, outreach activities for music education, and a fan weekend that included a concert with Todd performing with Notre Dame students. TR@ND solidified Todd’s vision of relationship-building and advocacy as the primary activities of the Foundation to maximize our resources and offer the greatest service to the largest possible number of music programs. This focus leverages our efforts more than grant-making could ever accomplish!
The fact that most music education programs around the country need money is a given. That’s easy–they need money, of course. When we take that monetary need off the table and work with them to forge local and national relationships with people and organizations that can support them in a more systemic manner, it’s certainly more challenging but absolutely more helpful to them in the long run! Nothing dreamed up by Todd would ever be the easiest route, now would it?
Todd says the Spirit of Harmony Foundation is in the “relationship-building business.” To support that mandate, we network with activists and political leaders who advocate for music education, and we develop relationships with individuals, corporations, and organizations that share our objectives.
Nearly every music program has a need for instruments, for example: a drum line program that has so few actual drums, the kids use practice pads, and since they don’t have drums they are unable to perform publicly for parades or events. To address the critical need for instruments in a great majority of all music programs that seek our support, the Spirit of Harmony Foundation has developed a comprehensive relationship with Hungry For Music, a non-profit that collects, evaluates, reconditions, and distributes used music instruments. Focus for the first half of 2017 is assisting Hungry For Music with their cross-country, 100-city, instrument collection drive with their RV, “Big Bertha.” Spirit of Harmony supporters are busy coordinating local grassroots collections and filling up Big Bertha as she rolls from city to city.
The Foundation has two staff members: Chairman Ed Vigdor and Executive Director Jean Lachowicz. The Board of Directors is elected annually with one-year terms, and the officers are also elected annually with one-year terms. Board membership is based on professional experience and commitment to the mission and purposes of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation. We have three committees: An Executive Committee (the elected officers of the Organization), a Program Committee (chaired by life-long non-profit professional Joel Owens), and a Bylaws Committee (chaired by attorney Michael Baird). We also have an appointed Advisory Board, a group of supporters who provide their specific expertise in a wide variety of capacities. Hundreds of volunteers, supporters, and partners work hand-in-hand to fulfill Todd’s vision for the Spirit of Harmony Foundation with passion, creativity, and FUN!