Think of Austin and think of music. Between the constant star-studded festivals, mellow weeknight gigs at coffee shops, and wild tunes pouring out of dive bars you pass on a night out, you have to wonder if it's the music that makes the city such a wonderful place to be.
One organization shaping our future musicians is the homegrown nonprofit Kids in a New Groove (KING), which connects youth in the foster care system with musician mentors to provide stability to those who need it most. To help raise funds, KING invites members to its Concert Club, which grants them entrance to intimate performances by artists in private homes and venues around Austin. Proceeds fund the mentorship that makes KING such an important part of many children's lives.
KING kicked off the 2016 Concert Club on November 17, at its Music Matters Luncheon with keynote speaker and Go-Go's bassist and songwriter Kathy Valentine, who spoke about the power of music. During the luncheon, guests also learned who's on the 2016 Concert Club lineup: Wild Child, Walker Lukens, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Octopus Project, and Elizabeth McQueen.
KING was founded by former prosecutor Karyn Scott, whose exposure to the constant flux of children in the foster system inspired her to help. Often, kids in the system change homes or schools and must reestablish home life and make new friends.
In 2004, Scott founded Kids in New Digs, a program that provided donated clothing to kids in the foster system. Although helpful, Scott's true mission was to provide long-lasting care for the children.
In 2009, she found a way to better serve her calling. The organization's name changed to Kids in a New Groove and began providing mentoring through music.
KING children can join the organization as young as age 5. Mentors come to the child's home once a week to provide lessons in just about any instrument imaginable. Instruments are provided (through the help of donations) for the kids, who work with mentors on setting goals, cultivating self-discipline, and building confidence and trust. Kids have the opportunity to earn instruments of their own through meeting goals.
Children with the organization acquire more than a life-long skill. There are countless theories floating around about music's ability to heal. Training can provide a coping mechanism for those who need it. KING kids build confidence as they hone their skills, and they have opportunities to show off their hard work at recitals and local events. They have performed at the X-Games and during SXSW, making memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the organization is that KING follows children from home to home within the area. The instability that inspired Scott to develop the program is tempered by the practice of mentors staying with the children throughout their time in the foster care system. KING maintains mentorship for up to one year after kids age out of the foster system. That can mean mentor relationships that last as long as 17 years.
KING mentors are local artists, instructors, and music teachers. The organization trains instructors to be mentors first and music teachers second, to put an emphasis on long-term, stable relationships. The organization's efforts to keep mentors with kids even through changes in home life is unique and goes a long way in restoring the basic human need to feel safe in children who may have seen considerable strife in their short lives. Currently, KING serves more than 115 children, primarily in Central Texas, with plans to expand over the next year to serve 175 children.