Eight years ago, then-VH1 pres John Sykes served as principal for a day at PS 58 in NYC. But instead of just mentoring, he learned a lesson himself-PS 58, as well as other schools all over the city, were losing their music education classes. And so began the germ of an idea that became VH1 Save the Music Foundation, the latest inductee into CTAM’s Hall of Fame. Begun in ’97, the Foundation has donated more than $25mln worth of musical instruments to more than 1,000 public schools in 80 cities, benefiting 500K children. The goal over the next 3 years is to reach 1mln children. And the person leading the charge has been on the job only one month. Paul Cothran was tapped to fill the post of executive director after Bob Morrison resigned last Aug. He comes to the foundation from Big Apple Circus, where as director of health and community programs his work included sending clowns into children’s hospitals to spread joy. Now, Cothran is turning in the red noses that honk, for saxes that wail and cellos that sing. His plan for Save the Music, right now at least, is to stay the course. "I’m still working on my vision," confesses Cothran, who plays no instrument himself, but had plenty of music education as a child (piano, guitar, trumpet). "I’m still going through the learning process. We’re really going to remain focused on reaching our partners and reaching new communities. We’re [rolling out] to 29 new communities in 2004. We’ll continue working with affiliates to find out where there is a real need." Over the years, Cothran thinks Save the Music has grown into a more sophisticated organization that’s made better use of working with its partners. We immediately think of CBS’s "Early Show" used musical instrument drive, which certainly raised the group’s profile since the two started the campaign in ’02. But Cothran says the situation is a bit of a catch-22. "One concern is that while that [initiative is] important to emphasize music education, we give new musical instruments. We don’t want people to get the wrong idea. We constantly work now to educate people what it is that we really do." Oops. We were a little fuzzy on that ourselves. Nevertheless, he says the "Early Show" is significant because it provides the foundation with another forum to really emphasize the importance of reduced funding for music education. "There is so much pressure to improve standardized test scores, that music education is really being squeezed out of the school day," says Cothran. "People are missing the research that shows music education really benefits. It helps with higher math scores, higher SAT scores and helps student to think more creatively." So, why is such a worthy service organization receiving a marketing award? "It’s because we are a national effort that has a very local impact," Cothran says. "We’ve worked so well with our partners and cable affiliates to make this happen. We could not have done this without them. The partnerships with affiliates have been virtually seamless." Time Warner Cable NY chief Barry Rosenblum was one of Save the Music’s first partners and is still a strong supporter. For him, the decision to be a sponsor was easy. "First, it ties our product in," he explains. "Second, if our schools are going to improve, people need to take interest in things that really make the schools special. The school district does a good job on core curriculum, but they really need help in doing things that go beyond the core." If you ask Rosenblum to look back on the foundation’s seven-year history, he’ll tell you that "the thing that sticks with me-we’ve gone back to do presentations at schools-is watching those kids continue to play and get better and improve. And they recognize you. You watch them grow up. That’s really what sticks with you."

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