THE GUITAR SOCIAL: The power of music

by Jasmine Ward | Feb 18, 2020 | Stories

THE GUITAR SOCIAL: The power of music

It’s no secret that music is an extremely powerful thing. It has been known to improve wellbeing, increase confidence, and bring people from all walks of life together. Aiming to bring guitar tuition to 200 vulnerable adults, Thomas Binns thought up a creative and record breaking way to fund it. 

In recent years, numerous studies have been done to find the connection between music and health. The transformative power of music has been shown to release mood enhancing chemicals in the brain and even unlock memories for dementia patients. 

After setting up a guitar school in England’s capital city, London, Thomas Binns saw first hand the impact music could have on people’s lives. He found that music tuition could reduce isolation, promote inclusion, and increase confidence and self-esteem. 

Then it got him thinking that if music could have such a drastic impact on people’s lives, what could it do for those neglected by society? 

Thomas Binns, the Guitar Social’s founder, explained, “I started the Guitar Social five years ago and it accelerated fairly quickly. It started off with just one class but then, within a month, we were at capacity. We were seeing around 70 people a week attending the classes.”

He continued, “It’s a really positive experience for the people that have signed up. Over the years they reported that it had a real benefit to them. Not only were they learning things but it was also creating social circles. It occurred to me that if we are doing that for people with income and the means to do it then we have the responsibility to do it for people who wouldn’t be able to access that same service. So we set about finding groups of people who wouldn’t be able to access good quality music tuition and all the benefits that come with that.”

Seeing the impact on the community

Over the years, the Guitar Social team have seen just what music can do for communities. 

Thomas said, “We use music tuition as a way to work with people who might have confidence or self esteem issues. These are people who are facing multiple social barriers such as physical, social or economic problems. With that usually comes a whole load of other issues so music tuition gets us into those communities. It is our access point. Then, through learning music, we notice the soft outcomes where people report an increased sense of wellbeing and confidence.”

In fact, their most well-known guitar player happens to be a Mary, a 97 year old visually impaired woman who began learning guitar just over two years ago. Now she’s a gigging musician.

For years, Thomas had been funding the charitable organisation from the profits of the guitar school and even his own pocket. Though, to reach more people, he knew they had to find more funding. 

After a chance meeting with Crowdfunder UK’s co-founder and Creative Director, Simon Deverell, and Crowdfunder UK’s Head of Campaigns, Murry Toms, Thomas was introduced to the idea of crowdfunding for his organisation. 

He said, “We had been funding it ourselves for a number of years. We had been buying instruments for people for about 2 years and delivering this work without any funding. It never really occurred to us to get any coverage on it. It was interesting that it was something that people were interested in.”

A ground-breaking world record attempt for a ground-breaking initiative

While thinking about crowdfunding, Thomas was struck by an idea. What if he could set the world record for the world’s longest guitar lesson as a means of encouraging donations? It would be an official attempt which was adjudicated by Guinness World Records. 

Through this the “The Great Guitar Giveaway” crowdfunder was born. 

They aimed to raise £24,000 ($41,254.14) which would enable them to bring guitar tuition to 200 vulnerable adults in a twelve month period. 

When asked about the impact crowdfunding had on their organisation, Thomas said, “Crowdfunder gave it direction. If we hadn’t had that serendipitous meeting with Simon and Murry I know we wouldn’t have raised the money that we raised.”

Their campaign also caught the eye of several famous faces including Stevie Wonder who commented, “It is really important to make music accessible to all. The ground breaking World Record guitar lesson attempt is a great initiative and a small stepping stone on the way to enabling visually impaired people to learn an instrument.”

In the end, their campaign raised £21,648 ($37,211.24) from 176 supporters. This included a match-funding grant of £10,000 ($17,189.23) from one of Crowdfunder UK’s funding partners. Through the UK Connected Communities initiative, Trust for London—a charitable foundation working to tackle poverty & inequality in London—aims to help organisations make an impact in the city.

On the funding, Thomas told us, “I was able to go to the people who had put money in and say for every £5 ($8.59) you put in it has just been turned into £10 ($17.19). It was an incredible incentive and something people should explore.”

He went on to say, “We are going to be working with youth groups in the outer ring of London where there are less resources. So we’re going to take that money and take a team of people and go launch some music projects in those areas.”

Since their campaign closed, Thomas and the Guitar Social team have since set the Guinness World Record for the longest guitar lesson. It involved teaching 240 people in a 24 hour time period. He explained, “It was a cool and horrific experience. It was incredible as loads of people came down for it and even at four in morning we had 20 people there.”

In the next twelve months, the Guitar Social will be delivering instruments and tuition to 200 people which translates to thousands of hours of tuition. 

Thomas has even visited both Crowdfunder UK’s office and Trust for London’s office to teach them how to strum a few chords, proving just how music can bring people together. 

Before he left Thomas told us, “Whatever we do in future we know that we will be doing it alongside Crowdfunder. It’s just an amazing organisation and Crowdfunder enables average Joes to get their acts together and raise enough to make a dent in their individual plans.”

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