“The great thing about a guitar is you can pick it up and take it anywhere. Just to be able to pull it out when you need that moment of clarity and creativity, that’s what we want to give them.”
That’s how Arlington resident Christina Black describes the true purpose of her nonprofit The Witt Black Music Foundation, a relatively new organization that gives local children in challenging circumstances the opportunity to learn the art of guitar.
The foundation was founded in memory of Christina’s brother, Witt Black, who passed away unexpectedly in 2016. For the Black family, as well as Witt’s former bandmates, starting an organization surrounding music—something that was such a huge part of Witt’s life—was natural.
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“My brother was a self-taught musician,” says Christina, a mother of two and full-time attorney. “After he passed, as much as we knew how special he was, we were amazed at the outpouring of love that came from others. We didn’t want that to stop, we wanted that ripple effect of how he touched people’s lives to continue.”
While officially incorporated in 2017, it wasn’t until March of last year that Christina and her team were able to raise enough funding to launch the programming of the foundation, bringing repurposed guitars to transitional housing organizations in the region for eight-week courses. Following eight weeks of lessons by experienced instructors, each participant will get to keep the guitar they practiced with at no charge.
“We let them know that the guitar is not theirs, rather it is on loan,” says Christina of the process. “But if they complete the entire course, then they get the guitar.”
The foundation’s very first class of musicians were taught at Bridges to Independence, a homeless shelter in Arlington. Since that very first lesson in 2018, the team has completed seven eight-week courses and gifted 44 guitars. In addition, they have been able to make true connections with the children, ultimately seeing several returning faces at both Bridges to Independence and Falls Church-based Homestretch.
“When I see them [the kids] disconnect from their circumstances and just really engage in the music, you can see in their faces that they really feel good about what they are accomplishing,” says Christina.
At the Witt Black Music Foundation’s very first fundraiser at Atlas Brew Works in October, the team raised $6,000, generating enough funds to partner with a second organization, Homestretch, and increase the amount of instructors from one to five. In the future, Christina hopes to expand to a third partnership in the community, now that the organization “has the hang of things.”
“Nothing gave Witt more joy than playing his guitar,” says Christina. “Now these kids are finding a safe space, an outlet, something that gives them a sense of community. It’s turning into so much more than what we expected.”
The team is currently looking for more experienced instructors. Interested? Click here.