Our mission is to empower youth through music & mentorship.
Guitars Over Guns is a Miami-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that offers students from our most vulnerable communities a powerful combination of music education and mentorship with professional musicians to help them overcome hardship, find their voice and reach their potential as tomorrow’s leaders. Guitars Over Guns creates safe spaces for youth to express themselves through music and empowers them to make positive choices at school, at home and in their communities.
Guitars Over Guns’ unique curriculum emphasizes social-emotional learning and outcomes through music and arts instruction. After each session, mentors assess students’ academic performance, school and program attendance, artistic progress and peer interactions. We use social-emotional learning measurements to evaluate key competencies such as empathy, teamwork, initiative, responsibility and problem solving. Recent evaluations indicate that over 90 percent of Guitars Over Guns students improved their academic performance, overall conduct and decision-making skills. These measurements are byproducts of a greater shift that is occurring in the way these young people think about the world and their place in it.
Established in Miami in 2008, the organization now operates in Miami and Chicago. We have served more than 4,000 students over the past decade. Guitars Over Guns began as an informal music mentoring project led by Dr. Chad Bernstein, serving youth from under-resourced neighborhoods in Miami. Upon observing the students’ achievements both on stage and in the classroom, Chad formalized the program and partnered with local schools to impact even more youth. In collaboration with Communities in Schools of Miami, the first official Guitars Over Guns program began at North Miami Middle School in 2008. Over the past ten years, the program has grown to offer no-cost music instruction, mentorship and academic support at 16 school and community sites in Miami and Chicago. Additionally, Guitars Over Guns now offers a more extensive curriculum that includes dance, visual arts and an annual summer camp. With the support of our mentors, staff, community partners, board of directors and passionate advocates around the world, Guitars Over Guns is ready to inspire and empower students everywhere to #ChooseYourSound.
Making music & changing lives since 2008.
Guitars Over Guns has transformed the lives of more than 4,000 deserving youth in Miami and Chicago. Here’s just a peek at our story.
First program launches at North Miami Middle School, in partnership with Communities In Schools of Miami.
2009 – 2010
Partnership forms with the University of Miami to boost programming and outreach.
Guitars Over Guns receives its first major press coverage from the Miami Herald.
Program expands to second school site, Miami Edison Middle School.
Chad Bernstein publishes his doctoral dissertation, laying the groundwork for Guitars Over Guns’ unique approach to high-impact music education and mentorship for at-risk youth.
Guitars Over Guns rebrands with new logo and renewed focus on community-based impact.
First Chicago program launches at UCAN Academy, an innovative 1st through 12th grade year-round therapeutic day school.
The first annual Choose Your Sound Benefit Concert takes place at The Fillmore Miami, raising $47,000.
Chad Bernstein, Founder & CEO, is honored as a CNN Hero.
The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners declares April 21st to be Guitars Over Guns Day.
First summer programs launch in collaboration with Concerned African Women and the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.
Guitars Over Guns launches its first Chicago Public Schools site at Evergreen Academy Middle School, in partnership with Communities in Schools and Ingenuity. The site serves all 300 students by the end of the year.
Chad Bernstein appears on the Steve Harvey Show to share the Guitars Over Guns story, and is named one of Harvey’s Heroes.
Guitars Over Guns’ Haven Studio is launched in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, giving students access to professional recording and production equipment and mentorship.
PEOPLE Magazine profiles Chad Bernstein and Guitars Over Guns as an organization that “gives kids hope.”
R.I.S.E. program is formed to extend mentorship to Guitars Over Guns alumni and create meaningful community engagement.
In collaboration with Leadership Miami, the first annual Guitars Over Guns graduation ceremony takes place, hosted at Marlins Park and welcoming more than 180 students and guests.
The 1st Annual Jimmy Ranoha Memorial Golf Tournament takes place, marking the first large-scale Guitars Over Guns fundraiser in Chicago.
Guitars Over Guns Chicago launches its “Legacy Band” for alumni, a work-study program that allows high school students to earn community service hours by serving their younger peers as music instructors and junior mentors.
The Miami Marlins name Guitars Over Guns a 2018 Marlins Charity Partner, with an award of $25,000.
Today, Guitars Over Guns operates 23 unique program sites in Miami and Chicago, employing 50 mentors and serving more than 770 students. Over the past ten years, our programs have reached more than 3,000 youth.