My day job is executive and artistic director of Music Makers. This is a non-profit organization that I founded nearly a decade ago, which provides music study and performance opportunities to include children who otherwise cannot afford to participate. We teach violin, viola, guitar and piano in both private and group lessons. Our students are truly a diverse group and many are low-income children who have limited access to music education. Prior to starting this group, I was a string music teacher, arranger and violinist, in both the Milwaukee area and in the Madison public schools.
I’ve found that music can open doors in life-changing ways. What we’re doing at Music Makers isn’t just music—it’s family support, social work and so much more. Often, past students come back to me and say that what they remember most is the opportunities music provided. That it exposed them to other places, the possibility of going to college and more.
At present we have about 80 students at Music Makers and we’re incredibly excited by the caliber of talent. In fact, this year 16 of our students successfully auditioned for spots in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra—proof of the talent and hard work of our kids and our staff.
My most memorable caffeine was all the coffee prospective supporters drank (I’m not a coffee drinker) during our start-up days. I’ve spent a lot of time in local coffee shops.
My current caffeine of choice is chai with almond milk.
My favorite place for caffeine is the Panera on West Washington. I call it my office!
The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is Ragab Rashan, who is my granddaughter’s husband. Ragab is Egyptian and came to this country three weeks before the uprising there. In Egypt he ran a coffee shop, where people of many different backgrounds would gather—it’s actually how he and my granddaughter met. Ragab is extremely educated and thoughtful and is an incredibly loving father and family member.
As a Muslim, he has, unfortunately, experienced outrageous fears, misunderstandings and ignorance. I’d like to sit down with him over a cup of coffee (he lives out of state) in order to communicate both my admiration for him and my regret that our culture hasn’t progressed enough to take him at face value.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: I’d love to give everyone the chance to study history and develop their critical thinking skills. As a teacher, I’ve seen since as early as the ‘80s that it’s getting harder and harder to engage children and encourage them to truly think about an issue. They’re used to entertainment that’s so compelling and fast that it’s hard to engage them in the classroom. I love the fact that there’s been a movement to build mindfulness into the school environment. I am already seeing an impact on children that I teach whose school experience includes mindfulness.