Board members of Music Loves Ohio at the casino night fundraiser in Sept. 2018. Credit: Courtesy of Parker Norvell

Music Loves Ohio was born in 2009 when Matt Crumpton and his former roommate Tony Castricone wanted to volunteer and do something similar to VH1’s Save The Music program, which aims to support public school music programs by donating instruments and other relevant equipment.

The pair found that there were no organizations in Columbus where they could make a positive impact through music, so they started their own, Crumpton, founder and president of MLO, said.

The first couple of years MLO focused on fundraising, with MLO organizing free and educational events such as songwriting workshops, Crumpton said. Once it started to raise money, it focused on instrument grant programs typically aimed at talented students who are in need of instruments but don’t have the financial means to procure one.

The organization also provides classroom grants where teachers with underserved kids can apply for classroom equipment relating to music.

“We generally fulfill 100 percent of those [grants] that we can afford,” he said. “To date we have never turned down a classroom grant request.”

The organization, which serves Columbus and surrounding counties, also provides tuition and scholarships to students for summer camps where they have the opportunity to learn more about music and the program and audition for scholarships to music institutes, Crumpton said.

Parker Norvell, a board member of MLO, said the organization has managed to send five students to Berklee College of Music’s summer camp program, which he said is basically an audition to get into the institute.

Three students managed to get a full-ride scholarship to the school, one of whom now plays with the Chamber Orchestra of New York, he said.

Norvell said that in his opinion, the students who managed to get a full ride to Berklee are MLO’s biggest accomplishments to date. Putting the means in the students’ hands to achieve amazing feats and make a career out of music is the reason the organization exists, he said.

The organization has some music teachers on its board who help refer people to MLO. Norvell also uses his background as a first-grade teacher to help spread the word to teachers and other schools that are in need of funds for their music curriculums, he said.

Crumpton said that MLO is trying to “grow organically” rather than push for awareness because if it starts getting a lot of applications without a corresponding increase in funds, then it can’t really help much.

Music Loves Ohio is not for everybody, Crumpton said. However, it is for students extremely passionate about pursuing music as a career and the only thing holding them back from getting there is their financial status.

“Our role is to find those people and knock down their financial barriers,” he said. “That’s why we exist.”

For individual grants, the organization mainly looks at high school students who have already exhibited a basic talent and understanding of an instrument and are looking to further their education, Norvell said. For classroom grants, the ages can range anywhere from pre-K to high school.

Norvell, through his work at MLO, is trying to expose students to the world of music and careers in the music industry through various events and after-school programs, he said.

“[We are] trying to show [the kids] that yeah, there’s doctors, lawyers, those are jobs, but musicians are jobs too, and that’s something that you can do,” Norvell said.

Fundraising is the main challenge for the organization, Norvell said. It applies for grants from the government and other organizations that provide such assistance. Besides that, it is working on a series of happy-hour fundraising events beginning in May, which will take place the last Thursday of every month at Little Rock Bar, located in the Italian Village.

It will be a live performance where a portion of the sales from the bar would go to the organization, Norvell said. This series will run from May to August, and on Sept. 21, MLO will have its casino night, which, according to both Crumpton and Norvell, is its biggest fundraising event of the year.

Crumpton said he is driven by knowing the impact the organization can have on the children and the positive outcomes it can achieve. He said that seeing the joy on someone’s face when they realize that there isn’t a financial barrier to their dreams is the reason he does what he does.

“Just seeing their face when we go and we deliver instruments to these kiddos … it’s more than Christmas to them,” Norvell said.