Rawkstars History

Rawkstars started small back in 2003 and has stayed small even today, but we’ve created so much impact. As a vibrant community of Fans, students, and music schools, we’ve done together what none of us can do alone.

Funding Life-Changing Music Education for 19+ Years

  • 2002
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2006
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2015
  • 2018
  • 2021
  • 2023
Rawkstars first softball game 2002 group photo
Before It All

Before the beginning, a bunch of outta shape musicians got together, played softball, drank beer, laughed a shitload and realized just how lucky we were to have each other.

After the game, everyone came back to my house and we passed around an empty fishbowl.  We collected a few hundred bucks which I donated to The Neely House, to help local families of cancer patients.

I saw first hand the pure love everyone had in their hearts and how music brought us all together, like a chosen family.  It was the seed of that day which gave birth to Rawkstars.

If you attended any of our softball events, you’ll remember them being filled with love, smiles and music.

Teen boy playing guitar with intent look on face
Our First Student

October 23rd, 2004 I received an email from our first student looking for lessons.  His name was Kevin.  He was shy, and wanted to learn guitar.  We set him up with lessons and he spent several years studying, before moving on to attend Boston University.

I developed a friendship with Kevin and his mom and they’ve  participated in many of our events over the years.

I still have Kevin’s original email on my office wall, so I can see it everyday.

Photo collage of Rawkstars partners
Our First Store Partner

It takes a family to support music programs for kids for 17 years.  Today I’d like to shine the light on 3 of our cornerstone partners.

South Shore Music and DiCenso’s Drum Shop was our very first lesson location.  The first two Rawkstars kids studied guitar there.  I’ve gotten to know Peter personally and he is as passionate about helping kids as he is talented.

Rick’s Music is where my own kids took lessons.  Their staff is beyond amazing, and Rick and Robin have become family friends.  We’ve hosted concerts, fundraisers and partnered with the store in more ways than I can count.

TJ’S Music is a Fall River institution.  Todd and Tamie run an amazing community music shop that is as authentic as it is welcoming.

We could never have made it without partners this big-hearted, professional and kind.  I recommend all of them without reservation and love and respect these folks dearly.

Group of teen boys with instruments
Music Clubhouse

In March of 2006, we started our first group guitar class in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

We were contacted by West End House, a hundred year old club located in the heart of Allston about adding music classes for their after-school program.

My friend Dave helped us get a donation of 20+ guitars and we hired Derrick and Karlos to lead the group.  What started as a small class for about a dozen kids soon became a full blown, permanent Music Clubhouse, when we brought Music & Youth Initiative into the fold.  They have since gone on to build, staff and oversee 16 music clubhouses in Massachusetts alone!

That tiny little guitar class blossomed to touch countless kids and families right in our own backyard.

Young girl playing guitar and smiling at camera
After-School Guitar Classes

Prospect Hill Academy is a charter school located in Cambridge.  They prepare inner city youth for success in college through innovative programming, creativity and responsible citizenship.

Rawkstars funded and staffed an after school guitar class with them back in 2010.  We hosted about 15 students 2x per week, helping them build self-confidence and foster self-expression through the arts.

Young woman playing guitar with a child in a wheelchair
Music Therapy

In March of 2011, we met with the folks at William Carter School in Boston.  The school supports kids with intensive disabilities and complex health needs with innovative approaches to learning.

My friend Sarah Emily Blacker worked there as a music therapist and asked if we could help them acquire instruments to bolster their therapy program.

Since the kids are non-verbal, wheelchair bound and without the  dexterity to play guitar, we purchased them a series of hand instruments.  Drums, shakers, keyboards and other tactile items they could use to make music were donated to the classroom along with other music supplies.

Rawkstars founder with two kids with saxophones
Orchard Gardens

Orchard Gardens is a K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury that serves hundreds of non-English speaking kids.  They developed a maximally inclusive program for students with Autism.  Their arts programming has been recognized as a turnaround model by the President’s Committee, and was visited by Barack and Michelle Obama.

They had two high achieving music students who got accepted into the prestigious Boston Arts Academy High School, despite learning exclusively on borrowed instruments.  Intermediate band instruments can cost 10-15x what a starter guitar costs and are often out of reach for low income families.

Rawkstars stepped in to donate a saxophone and clarinet to these two boys as well as a drum set and percussion items for the larger school band program.

Band of teens playing music in studio
Rawkstars All-Stars

Music isn’t about taking lessons.  It’s not about practice.  It’s about sharing a piece of yourself.  About being creative, vulnerable and passionate.  It makes everything around it more beautiful.

5 years ago, we took some students into Guilty Dog to record a KISS song.  The “Rawkstars All-Stars” consisted of 3 students, Ethan, Zoe and Anthony.  JJ, Bella and board members Lisa and Cidalia filled in the rest.

Watch the video here!

Group of preteen girls in a band, posing with dramatic lighting
Girls Rock! Rhode Island

In 2015, we donated several instruments and provided a $1,500 grant to @girls rock ri, now known as RIOT Rhode Island.

Girls Rock! Rhode Island is a volunteer-based non-profit that uses music creation and critical thinking to foster empowerment, collaborative relationships, and the development of healthy identities in girls, women, trans, and gender non-conforming individuals.

We think it’s important that all kids have access to music education and were proud to support a like-minded organization.

Women of Rawkstars on Rawk Run
Rawk Run

After 4 years of running the historic Falmouth Road Race, we decided to start our own event. 

51 runners connected at D.W. Field’s Park in Brockton to celebrate and raise awareness for music education.

We hosted a 5k/10k for people of all shapes and sizes.  It brought together like-minded friends and volunteers in the positive, community-oriented way that Rawkstars has become synonymous with.

Group of music students on stage
Student Concert

Huge thanks to Nick Vecchio, Joe Hart, Jonathan Cardoni and the crew at Band Gig School of Music.  Nick and his wife hosted a student concert last Saturday night and donated the proceeds from the event to Rawkstars, Inc.

I’ve known Nick since we connected at Daddy’s Junky Music and Jonathan was my manager at the infamous Good Vibrations Warehouse, circa 1988!

Your collective generosity will most definitely make a positive impact on the life of a young music student and her family.

Group of Rawkstars students
Our 20th Anniversary

This year, Rawkstars is celebrating our 20th anniversary, and we couldn’t have gone a single year without the support of our Fan Club and partners. YOU are Rawkstars!

Since 2003, we’ve supported hundreds of local families and generated countless success stories. We’re run by an all-volunteer staff and a powerful cohort of loving donors, who selflessly support our kids without asking anything in return.

If you aren’t involved with us yet, won’t you join the Rawk Family?

Young man with a guitar smiling
Group of Rawkstars supporters at Road Race
Young boy playing guitar
Jess T former Rawkstars student and current teacher

You’ve seen our past—now be part of our future. Join our Fan Club to provide free music lessons and instruments to kids in New England. (And get invited to some killer performances!)