The Johnson’s have a long history of serving music programs throughout Massachusetts. Though Johnson String Instrument already serves a growing number of El Sistema-inspired programs, we have been searching for a way to better serve these and other programs that cater to culturally underserved communities. Founder Carol Johnson discovered in conversations with various program directors that many have a hard time getting enough funding for the instruments they used as well as their upkeep. From this need and desire comes JSI’s newest endeavor: The Johnson String Project. As a non-profit organization operated out of JSI, the String Project is designed to offer the same level of service and high-quality instruments that all JSI customers have come to expect at discounted rates for qualifying programs. This will allow the program to assist El Sistema and other initiatives aimed at under-serviced communities based on individual needs.
The efforts of the Massachusetts Cultural Council are what make this organization possible. Through their SerHacer initiative, the MCC was able to distribute a set amount of funds to the programs and the Johnson String Project through grants. In order to qualify for the grant, programs must meet specific requirements outlined by the organization, the most important of which being that they serve a high-needs community. The funds received by Johnson String Project are dedicated to the rental and purchase of instruments for these programs.
There are a few key differences between the Johnson String Project rentals and the JSI rental program. What makes the String Project more beneficial to these initiatives is that all rentals are discounted by 30%. In addition, 100% of the rental cost is given back in equity annually, as opposed to only the first year. This allows the programs to build equity more quickly in order to purchase the instruments sooner rather than later. Each program’s yearly rentals are covered by the MCC grant, and they can rent as many instruments as the grant money covers. Once the instruments have been purchased, programs pay a maintenance fee so that they can continue to be serviced by the String Project. Since instrument repairs sometimes become costly, this helps to ensure the longevity of instruments owned by the program at a price that the programs can sustain.
The overall goal of the Johnson String Project is an expansion of Johnson String Instrument’s belief that all students are entitled to a high-quality instrument. The condition of the instrument should not deter a child’s love of music. It is our hope that the Johnson String Project, in partnership with SerHacer and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, will foster that love through El Sistema-inspired and similar programs for years to come.