Taken from Forbes (Dec 02, 2019)
The Power Of Purpose: How Armory Of Harmony Is Turning Guns Into Musical Instruments For Children
by Afdhel Aziz
One of the first mouthpieces to be made from decommissioned guns. PhotoCredit: Keenan Gibbs/Armory of Harmony
Armory of Harmony was founded by musicians to support strong music programs in schools and provide instruments made from decommissioned firearms. As part of advocating for safe learning environments these up-cycled instruments are also used by major recording artists.
They are an affiliate member of the Grammy Music Education Coalition and have partnerships with over a dozen instrument manufacturers to grow their selection of instruments.Beyond funding programs they are also working with schools directly, both on anti-violence initiatives and powering radical (and musical) collaboration.
In Florida Armory of Harmony has worked with members of their "musicians alliance" and local marching bands to create music videos. This project gave students one on one time with artists and producers discuss ways to succeed in having a career in music.
I caught up with Executive Director and "Chief Alchemist" Cameron Sinclair to find out more about this groundbreaking project.
Afdhel Aziz: Cameron, welcome.Tell us how Armory of Harmony came about?
Cameron Sinclair: Years ago Richard Gibbs and I co-hosted a fundraiser with Peter Gabriel to support music programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the event a group of us began discussing the positive benefits of music programs in schools, including higher attendance and better graduation rates.
Like many parents we noticed a rise in violence in U.S. schools and inflicted on (and by) children. For decades I developed and built educational facilities in over 40 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Yet here at home, one of the strongest countries in the world, we have children living in fear of attending the one place that should be a safe haven and the engine of empowerment.
We began wondering if we could develop a fiercely apolitical proactive solution that uses the power of music to address both issues.
Last year Richard founded Armory of Harmony in the aftermath of losing his home in the Woolsey fire. The neighborhood was devastated and while his home was destroyed, his recording studio miraculously was untouched. Literally everyone has recorded there; Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, P!nk, The Chainsmokers, Logic, Ariana Grande, Chance the Rapper and most recently Coldplay. So, while it was not in use, it became the birthplace and home to Armory of Harmony.
Executive Director and Chief Alchemist of Armory of Harmony, Cameron Sinclair. PhotoCredit: Anna Ruch
Aziz: Very inspiring. So how would you articulate the purpose/mission of the organization?
Sinclair: We have a duel mission; to give decommissioned guns a new purpose and to ensure safe learning environments and support strong youth music programs.
Aziz: So, why instruments?
Sinclair: During our research phase, due to lack of funds for the arts, there aren't enough musical instruments to support a national K-12 music program - giving kids an opportunity to be apart of something bigger than themselves. Studies have shown that schools with music programs have higher attendance and graduation rates than those without.
Aziz: And why use decommissioned weapons?
Sinclair: There are more firearms in the United States than humans beings. Over 389 million are in the hands of everyday citizens, twice the number in the possession of every law enforcement and military in the world. Of this number, hundreds of thousands that are no longer wanted, deactivated or decommissioned. Unless they are disposed of properly, they are susceptible to fall into the wrong hands and used in violent crimes.
This year we worked with the LAPD and various city agencies to smelt weapons from LA's most recent buyback program and, thanks to local machine shops, were able to build our first set of instrument mouthpieces. Now we are expanding to guitar bridges, kalimbas and other elements. As Fela Kuti once said, "Music is the weapon. Music is the weapon of the givers of life."
Aziz: Who are some of the artists who have signed up to get involved?
Sinclair: A few weeks ago we began asking artists to lend their support. We have about three dozen artists who are part of the musicians alliance. From Opera to Hip Hop, from country to EDM. We have Jon Batiste, Nathaniel Rateliff, Keisza, Sabrina Claudio and many others. On December 21st some of our Grammy and Oscar nominated musicians will be hosting a concert in Los Angeles, using some of our instruments, to benefit Westchester High School.
It is our hope that the entire music industry come together take a stand against violence against children and to ensure young musicians feel safe to practice and perform in any space.
Armory of Harmony Mouthpieces. PhotoCredit: Keenan Gibbs/Armory of Harmony
Aziz: And how can people get involved to help?
Sinclair: We've been stealth for a year while working on a proof of concept-it is time to scale. So, to coincide with Giving Tuesday, we are going national. Our professional grade musical instruments are currently 100% made in America - currently collected, smelted, up-cycled, designed and produced in Los Angeles. We'd love more cities and communities to partner with us in the buyback programs, for smelting facilities to work with us and for school marching bands, glee clubs and youth music programs to join the alliance.
Financially we have been entirely self-funded by the team and our small circle friends. Additionally no one, including myself, has taken a salary and-so naturally having patrons and benefactors will allow us to expand. Given the resources to scale, we'd love to create a truly sustainable model to smelt all decommissioned weapons, open steel plants, employ metal workers and provide instruments for every school band in America. Just as much as we need the next Bill Gates and Elon Musk, culturally we need the future Bruce Springsteen and Billie Eilish.