For kids and adolescents with learning disabilities like ADHD, Asperger's and Dyslexia, childhood can be a confusing, frustrating and rocky landscape, littered with dead ends, broken dreams and the exasperation of watching friends and peers seemingly glide effortlessly through scholastic and social milestones while those with they themselves spin their wheels endlessly and, despite Herculean efforts, still experience embarrassment, private criticism and public shaming for "not living up to their potential".
For some kids, the gut-wrenching angst and pent-up rage that result are enough to drive them to commit suicide or violence toward others, while others often turn to alcohol, street drugs or other destructive behavior, and still others turn to social or religious cults in desperate attempts to numb the pain or make some sense of the world. I know about these invisible disabilities and the devastating emotional havoc they can wreak from firsthand experience, and I still remember the names and faces of many of those I once knew who felt the same things I did, but expressed them in ways that ended their and/or others' lives.
Fortunately, when I was a boy, my folks were able to fit a secondhand drum set and some drum lessons into their budget, in hopes of providing me with a constructive way to vent those pent up feelings of anger, exasperation and shame of constantly falling short of the mark. Eventually, that vehicle for releasing pain developed into a passionate love of music, and a desire and thirst for the techniques I heard the pros perform in my favorite songs and on the radio and TV shows and in time, helped me build enough proficiency to perform on stages and record in studios with bands in the Northeast and across the country, and to teach upwards of 300 private drum students over a 30-year period, several of whom subsequently became successful drummers and/or drum instructors, themselves!
But what if my circumstances had been different? What if there weren't as many options available to me, back then? Who and where might I be today, instead? And what if you're a kid whose mom and dad don't have enough left over to give you that kind of an advantage?
The Exodus Project is a nonprofit organization I am developing as a way to provide musical instruments and private, one-to-one online lessons with experienced musicians to kids aged 8-15, whose financial and educational challenges have placed them at the greatest risk for failure in life. As has already been proven in numerous studies, the minds of children who are provided with musical education and training tend to develop improved abilities to focus, and as these lead to the realization of even the smallest of victories, greater senses of possibility and determination arise, to both see and begin to think and stretch beyond previously perceived limitations.
The mission of The Exodus Project is to find children who feel lost or marginalized and simultaneously pair each of them with a musical mentor they can look up to, a person they can relate to and the tools and structure to instill in them senses of purpose and inclusion. Although doing so won't magically make their disabilities go away, there is an almost miraculous awakening that occurs when children who have had every last shred of hope stripped away for reasons beyond their understanding or control suddenly glimpse it once again, and it dawns on them that they have been empowered with a sense of control over one small area of their world!
Like the biblical chapter referenced in its name, The Exodus Project literally provides these kids with a pathway "from bondage to freedom"; from feelings of intellectual, social and financial limitation to those of emancipation, choice and possibility. Ideal Exodus Project candidates will be found by working in conjunction with the local school superintendents, department heads and clergy best able to serve as a bridge between The Exodus Project and the children and families who would benefit most, and as news of the organization spreads and resources become more readily accessible working with more and more communities around the Commonwealth and adjacent states, and by providing a few lucky kids with both a Mentor that they can look up to and a real person they can look next to,
But, even more important than that, it will provide them with a series of personally experienced examples of just how capable and successful they can eventually be, despite previously overwhelming odds against them, if they just stick with it and try that one more time...
If you know of anyone who has any old musical instruments lying around "from back in the day" or who is a professional musician or music educator who might be interested in helping me to help others, would you please pass along my number and/or this webpage?
Thank you, immensely,