Ben Folds' charitable initiative Keys For Kids is supporting seven non-profit organizations in North Carolina to provide little-to-no-cost keyboards and music lessons to children.
Born and raised in Winston-Salem, Folds is a singer-songwriter and the frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five, which was formed in Chapel Hill. Now, at the age of 55, Folds said he has the desire to give back to North Carolina.
“Essentially what we're doing is connecting dots, cheerleading, raising money and being involved in any way we can, but the important thing to know is that these organizations already exist," he said. "And without them, a lot of kids wouldn't be getting access to music early on."
Keys For Kids is a public-private sector partnership with the North Carolina Arts Foundation and the North Carolina Arts Council. Folds said he joined forces with those organizations and first Lady of North Carolina Kristen Cooper to decide the seven inaugural Keys For Kids partners.
He said the seven non-profit organizations were chosen from several locations so that the resources are distributed evenly across the state.
"It's a huge thing," Folds said. "It's very important – changed my life. The desire to help and to give back is where it started, and the journey has led us so far to being connected with these seven organizations to begin with. They were chosen to be as diverse as possible, location and everything, so that it wasn't all going to one place."
Keys For Kids is currently focusing exclusively on organizations in North Carolina, and several of the seven non-profit organizations are based in the Research Triangle.
Kelley Downey, the executive director of Musical Empowerment in Carrboro, said the organization offers free music lessons for young children and involves UNC students serving as mentors.
"We serve K-12 students on a variety of instruments, piano and guitar being the most popular, and so he selected us as one of the organizations that he wanted to partner with," she said.