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Kids helping kids: The gift of music shared through The Crescendo Foundation

A new foundation brings music lessons to children in the city who haven't had the opportunity to pursue their interests and develop their talents
Underwriting support from:
The Piano Cottage Rocks!

The Piano Cottage Rocks!

The Piano Cottage is filled with music! It’s where Jody Deems-McCargar teaches young people to love music, make music and expand their horizons as they grow, learn and develop their talents. She and husband, Wright McCargar, well-known local musician, Zachary Kolkman and other instructors share their considerable skills with over 150 young musicians who study piano, voice and a variety of other instruments.

Earlier this year, young musicians from The Piano Cottage approached the McCargars with an idea. They wanted to put together a concert focusing not on the classical and traditional music they were used to playing but rather on contemporary music—in short, they wanted to rock! So, backed by professional musicians, lighting and sound crews as well as their fellow students, The Piano Cottage rocked! A full-scale concert, presented at Wealthy Theatre, drew a large and enthusiastic audience who cheered the musicians, students and professionals alike, as they shared their many talents.

After the concert, the McCargars talked with the students about what they wanted to do with any money they raised. Rather than the expected response of, “Let’s have a party!” or “We could take a trip”, the students asked if there was some way they could make music lessons and instruction available to other kids in the community who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Most of the students are from East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Rockford. Their schools offer music, and their families are able to provide private instruction if the children have the interest and talent. But the students knew that not everyone is so lucky. Many school districts in the area have cut back on music classes, and, especially during trying times, many families aren’t able to pay for private instruction.

The McCargars took the idea and ran with it. In September, The Crescendo Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to bringing music to underserved young people in the Grand Rapids area, was born. Through the auspices of The Crescendo Foundation, young people are nominated by their public school teachers. These are students who have talent and interest in music but don’t have the opportunity for professional instruction.

Each student will be matched with an instructor who will provide lessons at no cost to the student. As of today, The Crescendo Foundation is working with two students—a 7-year-old and a 17-year-old. Many others have been nominated and are awaiting placement.

According to Deems-McCargar, “Local musicians in Grand Rapids are very generous with their time when we ask them to work one to one with young and new musicians.  They tell us about teachers who inspired them and taught them to love music. They want to pass that on. Right now, they are donating their time, and we are raising money to reimburse them for the cost of transportation and materials. Eventually, we would like to be able to pay our instructors.”

Parents and guardians of the young musicians must agree to a one-semester commitment, which may be extended if the students show that they are benefiting from the lessons. Either the family or volunteers are providing transportation to and from lessons.

The Piano Cottage Rocks! already has their next concert planned. Two sponsors have stepped forward to underwrite the cost of the event, so all the money raised will go directly to The Crescendo Foundation. On July 26 and 27, Wealthy Theatre will again host the event. The McCargars anticipate that young musicians who have received lessons through The Crescendo Foundation will take the stage with the McCargars’ students whose idea it was to help other kids find joy in music.

For more information as well as an opportunity to donate or volunteer, go to



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