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Eddie Van Halen Donates 75 Personal Guitars to Schools' Music Programs

(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Eddie Van Halen visited CNN to discuss the importance of music education in schools.

Joining him was Felice Mancini, CEO of the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, a nonprofit music-education organization that assists low-income students.

You might remember that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer actually donated 75 of his personal guitars to the organization several years ago. "It was very difficult at first to find a charity that [takes guitars]," Van Halen told CNN's John Vause. "They all just wanted money."

Sadly, when schools are lacking funds and are forced to cut their budgets, "non-essential" music programs often get the axe. But a recent study by the NAMM Foundation found that kids who play instruments get superior grades, have higher IQs and face reduced odds of turning to drugs and alcohol later in life.

Van Halen's desire to bolster music education stems from his personal experiences. "It hit me when I graduated high school; you sign everybody's yearbook and everybody asks you, 'So what college are you going to?' Uh, 'Hey [brother Alex Van Halen], I think we'd better stick to what we know'," Van Halen said.

"So right now there are 75 kids out there learning to play guitar on Eddie Van Halen's old guitar," Vause pointed out later in the interview.

  • "More than that," Mancini said. "The kids share the guitars, they graduate, the instruments stay in the school—it's the gift that keeps on giving."
  • "Our goal is to give kids every tool they can possibly have to succeed," she added. "Music is the common denominator. You put a kid in a music class and it builds community, communication, and they find a place. It's a safe haven." The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation provides 1,800 instruments to low-income schools each year, giving a musical education to more than 10,000 kids.
  • "My whole life has been music. I could not imagine anything else," Van Halen added. "It's a must. It has to be taught."

For more information, check out the full interview below and visit mhopus.org.

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Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.