By Scott Sechman | Correspondent
Upon my arrival on the Outer Banks, one of the coolest things I discovered was the Mustang Outreach Program, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that teaches our local kids the joys and benefits of playing music.
But, the real beauty of it is that they learn how to rehearse and perform with their peers and are instructed and mentored by seasoned professionals.
Their mission goal?
“We believe that musical education is critical to all children’s growth and development,” said Mustang Outreach Program Music Director and Administrator Ruth Wyand. “Since we started the Mustang Outreach Program in 2012, hundreds of children have learned to play instruments, compose songs, improvise, work together and jam.”
My kids in Southern California had nothing like this when they were growing up. There were junior high and high school music programs, (assuming the school district had the funding).
When I went to school in Hampton Roads in the ‘60s and ‘70s, we had music in schools, but not rock and roll. That was something we learned in bedrooms sitting in front of a turntable, trying to copy the hit songs of the day and then by getting together with our friends in any available garage. Kudos to any parents that would allow us to make that racket. You have to remember that parents in those days weren’t raised on rock, as we were.
Given that one of the most valuable assets we have here on the Outer Banks are our kids, we would like to ensure that they have every advantage that we had growing up. That’s just the American way. Leave our country in better shape than our parents left for us. That’s the essence of the American Dream. Moving forward.
The coronavirus pandemic put a major damper on that concept. At the time of this writing, over 610,000 Americans have died from complications of the virus. Millions have been infected and thousands hospitalized. Businesses, large and small, are adversely affected. Nonprofit organizations are not immune from the economic effects, either.
Over 80 percent of the income needed to keep the Mustang Outreach Program operating, including teacher salaries, rent and overhead, came from the annual Mustang music festivals: The Mustang Spring Jam or Mustang Rock & Roast, as well as community concerts. Due to the event cancellations in 2020 and 2021, that income has dried up.
The resilience of director Ruth Wyand and her able staff, along with smaller money donations and volunteers, has kept the program alive. Although the money for overhead has dwindled, they have been fortunate in receiving donations that can only be used for scholarships.
Plans are to begin restarting the bands and signing up participants for the fall sessions. They are offering scholarships to kids that may need financial help. Right now, according to Wyand, they need those kids.
As a lifelong musician and a parent, as someone who believes that we have a duty to give back to our community, (especially when that community has given us so much), I am asking COAST OBX readers and the readers of my column to please support the MOP with whatever you can afford. If you have unused musical equipment, donate it. If the program can’t use it, they may be able to sell it to someone who can. If you can spare some cash to help with the overhead costs, dig deep. Keep in mind that donations are tax deductible.
Most importantly, if you have a child that harbors a love for music and wants to learn what it takes to perform in a band with like-minded kids, sign them up. The skills they will learn will benefit them for their entire lives. Getting along with people. Working together towards a common goal. Listening. Fostering their creativity and being engaged in an endeavor that actually produces something of value.
They will thank you for it.
The Mustang Outreach Program is, to me, akin to sustenance. It’s food for the souls of our children. It’s giving them the skills that they will need to get along in the world. Not only to get along with their inner selves, but to get along with others. To commune. To make a joyful noise.
To my mind, we cannot let our kids lose this great program.
Find out more about the program at facebook.com/mustangoutreach or make a donation at MustangOutreachOBX.org. For information on schedules and scholarships, contact Ruth Wyand at 252-441-4612 or email her at email@example.com