Music for the soul
Non-profit brings instruments to children

A photo of a piano.
Photo courtesy Google.
Steven Senn | Sports Editor | stevensennexpress@gmail.com

There are many organizations that got their start from life experiences of dedicated people wanting to change lives.

POMProject.org is a non-profit organization that puts donated musical instruments into the hands of children that otherwise couldn’t afford them.

JD Villanueva, a business major at City College and an Express writer and photographer, says he believes that the Power of Music (POM) will benefit these children as youths and help put them on the right path to be more successful as adults.

Villanueva, once a troubled teen, says he found music as an outlet for his teenage angst.

“I was a pretty crazy kid when I was younger,” he says. “I got arrested, I went to jail and at one point I was in a high-speed police chase.”

But then, he says he discovered the violin.

“All of a sudden my goals changed,” says Villanueva. “I went from wanting to be a rave party DJ to wanting to actually learn about music and play classical music.”

It was this newfound passion for music that Villanueva credits with getting him through high school and continuing on to college.

“It really completely changed me,” he says.

It gave him an outlet to express himself.

“Every time I felt angry or depressed for things you go through as a teenager, I would take it out on the violin,” says Villanueva. “It really helped me”

Instead of blowing his money on partying and getting into trouble, Villanueva says he started saving money for violin lessons. The more lessons he took, the more he felt music influencing his life.

“I started to feel I had a little bit more of a routine and more structure,” says Villanueva.

These personal experiences and the knowledge of how expensive musical instruments and instruction can be are what inspired Villanueva to found POMProject.org three years ago, he says.

The site is easy to use — donors can contact Villanueva, either by phone or through email, and arrange a pickup or drop off for the instrument. Then the instrument is cleaned, tuned and repaired if necessary. From there, POMProject reviews and selects prospective recipients for the instruments and pairs them with a child in need, who has applied for the instrument through the site.

POMProject also provides lessons for the children, but like the instruments, lesson availability relies entirely on donations. As such, POMProject is accepting applications for music teachers who would like to donate their time to instruct these novice musicians.

As of now, POMProject is a one-man organization solely run by Villanueva. He says he has been covering much of the operation costs out-of-pocket, but hopes as word spreads donations will increase.

Since the site has been operational, POMProject has given out around 50 instruments. Villanueva estimates that he’s bought and donated around 15 instruments with his own money. He also plans on donating two of his own violins in the future.

POMProject has received pianos, a drum kit, and lots of stringed instruments, especially guitars. The latest donated instrument, a shiny Ravel flute, found its way to a 12-year-old girl after her mother heard about the organization.

“I always wanted to play the flute,” says Sondra Hall, who most recently received an instrument from the program. “I had a wood one, but it didn’t work right.”

Since receiving the flute, Hall says she’s been busy practicing every day and learning songs. Along with the flute, Hall received a DVD of video lessons taught by a professional flautist and a computer program that lets her know when she’s off pitch, making it convenient for her to practice at home, she says.

“I was able to play part of the ‘Titanic’ theme and there is nothing I can remember that made me more happy than that,” Hall says.  “I felt very accomplished.”

Hall credits the site for helping her find something productive to do with her time and encourages others her age to try it.

“I hope that more people will visit the website and benefit from this because music is life for people our age,” she says.

Anyone interested in donating an instrument or his or her time can do so at www.POMProject.org