Our Story

Growing up in the Bay Area, Lessons for Life CEO Sonya Shadan noticed that music had become a two-tiered system where only those who could afford music lessons and expensive instruments were granted access. Because it didn't make sense to her for a music education to be a luxury item, she founded Lessons for Life to make music a right, not a privilege. Lessons for Life matches students who otherwise would not have access to one-on-one music instruction with volunteer tutors from high schools and colleges. The organization has already provided many students the opportunity to pursue music and continues to grow every day.

Our Lessons for Life students from De Marillac Academy.

Plato once called music “a more potent instrument than any other for our education.” Indeed, we know today thanks to a large body of scientific research that learning to play music has a profound impact on children's brain development. Studies have consistently shown that learning to play music directly improves children's performance on tests of spatial reasoning, verbal intelligence, and other cognitive skills that impact long-term academic success.

Still, even though the science tells us unequivocally that music has unique and dramatic effects on the developing brain, music programs in schools across the country remain drastically underfunded. Education budgets tend to prioritize more “useful” subjects like math and science – ironically, despite the fact that studying music increases students' capacity to learn these subjects. Unfortunately, the students who stand to gain the most from music – low-income students, students with learning disabilities, and other students whose circumstances put them at an academic disadvantage – are the least likely to have access to music lessons. As we slash funding for music programs, we are missing a chance not just to help students discover the beauty of music but to make our education system more effective overall, and the long-term cost to our society is very real.

Justin, our violin student from De Marillac Academy

We need to revolutionize education and bring Lessons for Life to every school in the United States, providing every student the gift of music. By not teaching our kids music, we will hinder their capacity to innovate.

"Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us results that make our hearts sing."

-Steve Jobs

With Lessons for Life we are teaching our kids not only how to play music but how to play, take a chance, and create. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music; your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced. And this initiative and revolution is not just San Francisco’s responsibility, but a universal one.

Our vision is to bring music lessons to every student in the United States.