Eddie Van Halen‘s love for music started as a child, and he’s working to make sure future generations have the same opportunity.
“My whole life has been music,” he told CNN. “I could not imagine anything else. It really hit me when I graduated high school, you sign everybody’s yearbook and everybody asks you, ‘So what college are you going to?’” By then, Van Halen had been in a band with his brother Alex since the fourth grade. “Hey, Al,” Eddie remembered saying, “I think we better stick to what we know.”
Fast forward several decades and funding for school music programs has diminished – sometimes to nothing. “It’s a must,” Van Halen said. “It has to be taught.”
That commitment to education led Van Halen to donate 75 guitars from his personal collection to the nonprofit Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which is giving them away to low-income public schools. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” foundation president Felice Mancini told CNN. “The kids share the guitars, they learn, they graduate and then the instruments stay in the school.”
The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation delivers 1,800 instruments each year, serving more than 10,000 kids. The impact goes beyond the chance to form a band, give it a name and then become a praised and distinctive guitarist. Children who play instruments get better grades and live healthier lives, according to the NAMM Foundation.