Chad Bernstein has always loved playing music. It was his outlet as a kid. When he noticed music being cut from public school curricula in Miami, FL, he began doing random favors for teacher friends with concert connections. Then came a workshop at the Juvenile Detention Center, where words meant little but his music communicated well. Afterward, he thought, "If we can perform and discuss music and how to play it, and take these kids from rowdy and upset to forgetting where they are for a half-hour, that's incredible. Through music we can reach them on mentoring." So he and fellow musical mentors began teaching guitar, keyboard, rap vocals, drums, bass and trumpet to 200 kids at North Miami Middle School. The program is called GUITARS OVER GUNS: CHOOSE YOUR SOUND.
Meanwhile, Bernstein's PhD in jazz performance at the University of Miami allowed him to write his dissertation on the effectiveness of music mentoring through his Guitars Over Guns program. Honest research helped him analyze the weak points. Now he's working on a partnership with the juvenile justice system. And how do students feel? Many graduates return to mentor middle school students. Says Bernstein, "A sense of belonging and ownership goes a really long way in making these kids leaders who have the confidence to make the right choice when it's not easy...and to do so in front of other kids.