What We Do

Kids are awesome. They’re creative. They’re fearless. They’re bursting with energy and hungry for knowledge. They know how to make the most of every opportunity.

But kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities don’t always have the chance to discover just how awesome they can be. As students, their schools are under-resourced. Their neighborhoods are under-served. It’s not that they don’t hold the same promise as other students. And it’s not that they don’t have dreams of their own. It’s that, due to circumstances beyond their control, they don’t always know that they have the freedom to choose a path of their own.

At Guitars Over Guns, we’re changing that through music, because we believe that music, combined with strong, consistent mentorship, can reshape the trajectory of a student’s life.

The skills, talents and life lessons students acquire while learning to make music – including teamwork, leadership, self-confidence, discipline, diplomacy, accountability, patience, self-esteem, courage and empathy – can translate into other areas of their lives and motivate them to make better decisions about things that matter, whether in the classroom, at home or in their communities. Learning to create music can help them believe – sometimes for the first time – that they, too, can reach for the stars every day.

So we match mentors – all of whom are working musicians – with schools to help the students who attend them find their voice. Not only are our mentors skilled at making and teaching music – they’re also compassionate individuals who believe in the power of music to change lives. Whether in the classroom or in the studio, they create safe spaces for our students to express themselves, push themselves, dare themselves, surprise themselves, perform and create. Our mentors quickly become their students’ champions – invested in their development as artists, their progress as students and their growth as members of their communities. As mentors, they are teachers, role models, coaches, confidants, advocates, friends and fans.

Our unique approach to mentorship helps kids in ways they may not have been helped before. It also sets us apart from other nonprofit after-school arts programs. The truth is, we don’t view ourselves solely as a music program. We’re a mentorship program that benefits the students who take part as well as the professional mentors who are the backbone of everything we do.

Our goal at Guitars Over Guns has never been to create the next Jay-Z, Ricky Martin or Adele. Our goal is to give students the opportunity to use the arts as a way to build the life skills they need to thrive in school, at work and, one day, as adults with families of their own and as community leaders. In other words, to be awesome.

Since 2008, we have served more than 5,000 students in Miami and Chicago. Of those students…


...felt their mentors helped them to be more active during school.


...have improved their GPA and attendance according to school records.


...improved in ability to work as a team.


...improved in confidence and self-esteem.