Foundation helps pay for art supplies, lessons
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Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013

Foundation helps pay for art supplies, lessons

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/24/12/36/9c626.Em.138.jpeg|236
    - COURTESY OF DEBORAH NEUHS
    Deborah Neuhs, right, and harpist Tamar Rowe hang out at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Michigan. Neuhs' foundation helped Rowe attend the prestigious camp in 2012.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/24/12/36/1oX06M.Em.138.jpeg|421
    - COURTESY OF DEBORAH NEUHS
    Deborah Neuhs, a Waxhaw weaver and art teacher, founded the Charlotte Area Foundation for Music and Handcrafted Art five years ago to help individuals pay for music and art lessons and supplies.

There’s little question that art and music can bring joy and beauty to people’s lives. But lessons and supplies also can be expensive.

A professional-quality musical instrument can cost as much as $20,000. While a number of grant programs offer financial aid to art and music groups, not many help individuals who can’t afford lessons or supplies.

Deborah Neuhs founded the Charlotte Area Foundation for Music and Handcrafted Art five years ago to help parents pay for instruments, supplies and lessons.

The foundation, privately funded through donations and fundraisers, has awarded thousands of dollars to fill the gap. Neuhs donates instruments and has used instruments repaired.

“We wanted to offset those financial burdens people face so they can pursue their art and music as far as they want to take it,” Neuhs said.

Neuhs said music and art can change the course of children’s lives, and that as schools cut art and music programs to fight shrinking budgets, helping children pursue the arts becomes even more important.

“Whether or not they pursue it on a professional level one day, it just opens up their hearts to so much beauty and has such a positive impact on their personal lives and the broader community as well,” Neuhs said.

Music and art teach discipline, and studies have shown possible correlations between musical training and better performance in school.

Neuhs, who lives in Waxhaw, also is a weaver with a studio in her home. She weaves custom textiles for designers.

The 37-year-old, who is single, took her first class in the mid-1990s at a little yarn store on Kings Drive that no longer exists. She fell in love with the craft and went on to study at the Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the John C. Campbell Folk School and at UNC Charlotte.

Neuhs also teaches music and handcrafted and visual arts through her business Handcrafted Art LLC.

Teaching opened her eyes to the benefits of music and art for children and the financial hardships that lessons and supplies can bring, she said. As children advance in the arts, the expenses often mount as they require better instruments and more instruction.

Neuhs’ foundation has worked with individuals and groups. In 2012, it helped send two students to Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, a prestigious program in northwest Michigan that draws students from around the world.

One of those students was harpist Tamar Rowe, 17. Her father, Chris Rowe, said the $3,100 grant was “the difference between going and not going.”

Tuition for the six-week camp was $8,000, and Interlochen provided Tamar with financial assistance to pay half; Chris Rowe, whose home-remodeling business was struggling because of the economy and who recently had gone through a divorce, said he was able to cobble together the rest.

Interlochen was life-changing for Tamar Rowe, who worked with world-class harpists and conductors in a beautiful outdoor setting. Tamar has played the harp since age 8, and she plans to continue in ensembles and other musical settings.

“It had an enormous impact on her musically,” Chris Rowe said. “It was very special for us because it came right at the end of a very hopeless and difficult time. It was just a deeply extraordinary experience.”

At a recent fundraising dinner, Neuhs handed two refurbished violins to Rosemary Warren-Green, wife of Charlotte Symphony Orchestra music director Christopher Warren-Green. Rosemary Warren-Green oversees a music program at Winterfield Elementary School.

The Winterfield started several years ago when science teacher Courtney Hollenbeck brought her violin to class to demonstrate sound waves. Students were meant to watch the strings vibrate as Hollenbeck played, but one student was so moved by the music that she told her mother she heard angels sing when Hollenbeck played. The girl said she wanted to learn to play.

Hollenbeck bought several violins on eBay and began a small strings group, but it became so popular she needed help. Warren-Green, a musician and teacher herself, stepped in to help, enlisting Charlotte Symphony players to teach. The program now has 70 students learning violin, cello, percussion or wind instruments. Symphony players Carlos Tarazona, Sakira Harley, Chris Stonnell, Deborah Mishoe, Leo Soto and Michael Sanders work with the program.

Neuhs works with the Winterfield program as well, providing violins for students and connecting Warren-Green with resources to get violins repaired and donated.

“It’s a great project in the right place,” Warren-Green said. “I think that music is the best education you can offer anybody, and it encompasses so many of our abilities and skills. I think any (assistance) that can help these children gain access to music is invaluable.”

The proof often is in the children. Warren-Green said Winterfield’s musicians now talk of when they go to college rather than if they go to college, and the principal reports that students often get off the bus proudly holding their violins in front of them.

Neuhs continues to work to expand. The foundation is holding fundraisers and arranging teaching and performance opportunities for the students.

“We would love to see every child in our community who wants to pursue art and music be able to do that without any hindrance, regardless of their economic situation or where they live,” Neuhs said.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at martyminchin@gmail.com.

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