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 5,000 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 twelve years, the program has grown to offer no-cost music instruction, mentorship and academic support at 36 school and community sites in Miami and Chicago. Additionally, Guitars Over Guns now offers a more extensive curriculum that includes dance, visual arts and annual summer camps. 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.