Five Key Ingredients to an Impactful Music Program

If you are ready to dig into music programming at your Club, read to the end of this post for an opportunity to get The Music Clubhouse book at no cost to you!

We’ve previously shared ideas and stories from our friends at Music & Youth, a youth development nonprofit that has partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs and other organizations around the country for nearly 20 years to help start and maintain music programming. They are always so generous with sharing their content and expertise, which is why we are SO EXCITED to share about a new resource from their founders, Gary and Joan Eichhorn. They’ve taken everything they’ve learned from launching 25 Music Clubhouses all over the country and written an excellent and thorough book that inspires and guides others who want to create their own arts program for teens, whether it focuses on dance, visual arts, or music (or something else). The Music Clubhouse gives specific steps to setting up a successful program and features interviews with teens and veteran Clubhouse staff. It’s got literally all the information you could need!

My favorite thing about The Music Clubhouse and the work that Music & Youth does is that they keep positive youth development at the central core of everything they do. They understand that arts programming isn’t just to teach artistic skill to young people, but that it is a powerful vehicle through which relationships with caring adults and peers, creativity, a sense of accomplishment, and increased self-esteem can be fostered, all of which positively affects every other part of their lives. Many of the principles they lay out could just as easily be applied to sports or STEM or any other kind of programming. Entwining subject-specific and youth development principles together means that BOTH will have maximum impact on those lucky enough to experience it.

Today, we’ll be sharing a sneak preview of The Music Clubhouse but know that what is here only scratches the surface. The Eichhorns and co-author David Bickel go in-depth on each of these ingredients below in the full book, as well as other topics including the Three Elements of the Music Clubhouse and The Nuts and Bolts like setting up the physical space and evaluating your program. And their generosity doesn’t stop with just sharing what they’ve learned- they want to put this book in your hands! Check after the excerpt for how you can get a copy of The Music Clubhouse at no cost to your Boys & Girls Club organization.

Let’s talk about the five key ingredients that clubhouse staff have at their disposal to support a positive and impactful youth development program through music. I like to think of these ingredients in terms of cooking. A talented chef understands that a recipe is just a guideline and knows how to customize it with the right blend of seasonings to satisfy different tastes. The chef realizes that restaurant patrons sometimes want a spicy meal and other times a more subtle approach. The art of cooking often comes down to knowing when and how to use just the right mix of herbs and spices to coax all those delicious flavors out of the dish.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick

This concept is a relevant way of thinking about how to adapt the Music Clubhouse program to work in your organization in your community. By design, the program is intentionally flexible. You can customize the basic ingredients to meet the needs of your youth and adapt them as necessary over time. By design, there is no fixed curriculum or bias towards a certain genre of music.

In chapters 1-5 of The Music Clubhouse, we will introduce these basic program ingredients:

  1. Youth voice: This can have a variety of meanings, including quite literally sound and words. In the youth development context, youth voice is much broader. It also represents a way for youth to discover ways to communicate and express their thoughts, concerns, opinions, and passions.
  2. Make music ASAP: In the Music Clubhouse, the goal for a staff member is to find out what song the teen wants to play, simplify the song to the basic chords, then demonstrate to the teen how to play either some part or all of the song right away. I have seen the “aha moment” on teens’ faces when they first experience playing their song. Once hooked, they are motivated to learn not just how to play, but why they are playing that chord.
  3. Collaboration: Making music is a natural and fun way to build and develop positive social skills and peer interactions. Music programming, activities, rehearsals, recording sessions, and performances all present opportunities to create a safe environment for participants to express themselves and collaborate with each other.
  4. Praising progress: Praising progress is most effective when staff members strive to create a safe, respectful, and positive culture where teens understand, without question, that they are valued and listened to- not only by their staff, but by their peers as well. Once they develop confidence that the Music Clubhouse is a place that supports them as the unique people that they are, they start feeling comfortable with opening themselves up to opportunities, to sharing, and to feedback.
  5. Support and mentoring: We can’t repeat ourselves enough- it’s not really about the music, it’s about creating relationships with teens that support their growth and development. Effective staff members strive to earn their teens’ respect, to understand that they care about them as individuals, value their differences, and “have their back.”

These are our favorite “spices” that will help you create a full-bodied music program that supports your youth development objectives and, we hope, inspire you to make your own “special sauce” for implementing a successful Music Clubhouse. Sprinkle them liberally in everything you do- you can’t over season!

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area

Want to learn more? The Music Clubhouse captures many stories of the Boys & Girls Club-based Music Clubhouses and the teens that have participated.  It is an excellent resource for Clubs thinking of starting a new music program or getting some ideas for their existing program.

Here’s what some leading Clubs and Partners are saying:

We’re lucky to have two Music & Youth Clubhouses with a third on its way this summer. These spaces and the amazing people who work in them create exceptional experiences for our teens. Now there’s a book by the team who originated the idea. – Daphne Barlow Stigliano, CEO Boys and Girls Clubs of Tarrant County, Texas

The power of this book is the personal stories and the impact the clubhouses made across the country. This book provides both the philosophical and practical information that a youth development professional needs to be able to develop and sustain a successful music program for their teens. – Josh Kraft, former CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston (from the foreword of the book)

The authors’ real-world experience is invaluable, and they are sharing it with all of us through this wonderful book. – Lee Whitmore, Ed.D Vice President Education, Americas, Focusrite Group

Books can be purchased at Amazon at

What are your favorite music programming ideas? How do you integrate creativity throughout the Club day? Let us know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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