Guitarist extraordinaire David Broza was his usual expressive self on Saturday night in Jerusalem, playing two hours of his greatest hits for a packed audience.
Backstage at the capital’s Zappa club, however, he was planning his Sunday morning visits to his elementary school-age guitar players, part of his One Million Guitars project.
“See this?” said Broza, showing a video of kids in Taibe and Sderot, guitars in hand, working on chords with huge smiles on their faces. “It’s so great to see this happening.”
Broza splits his time between Israel and the US, performing regularly in both countries and now working on his latest nonprofit endeavor, which was launched in early 2019 in the US and in December 2019 in Israel.
The project brings guitars and lessons to underprivileged children who otherwise might not have the opportunity to learn and play an instrument.
“It has immediate impact. It’s like night and day for the kids, it’s fantastic,” he said.
Guitars have been distributed to some 3,000 children in schools and after-school centers in around 40 states. The heart-shaped, children-sized guitars are specially designed by Broza and Shmulik Bogadov for the fourth- and fifth-graders taking part in the project.
Broza said the idea came about after he bumped into someone on the street who offhandedly mentioned that he should hand out guitars.
It made perfect sense to the longtime guitarist, who collects guitars and has made them the centerpiece of his long musical career.
Broza got the project started in the US, raising money from private funders as well as such companies as Viacom and Paramount.
“It’s not easy at all,” he said of the fund-raising. “I go to places where people don’t know me. It’s not like in Israel.”
The organization made 1,300 guitars in its first batch, and he now has a waiting list of 80,000 in the US and an “endless” one in Israel, he said. He wants to hand out one million of these “fantastic” guitars.
“They’re wood, really well built and very affordable guitars that sound good and are durable,” he said. “I hope it builds their self esteem and that the guitar is a milestone for them. They don’t believe somebody’s giving them something.”
The project has come at the right time in both countries, said Broza. The US government has cut down on arts courses and activities in schools, and while private foundations often supply music teachers, they don’t have instruments to give the students.
In the US, Broza is supplying guitars through two organizations, Little Kids Rock and Guitars in the Classroom, that supply teachers and a curriculum. The students get to keep the guitars after playing them for two years.
In Israel, he has to supply the curriculum and teachers as well, and get the schools to come on board with the project. Broza is currently meeting with principals around the country, hoping to reach as many schools as possible and make the program part of the regular curriculum.
There’s also an online aspect, with a virtual guitar academy available on YouTube for students of the program.
Broza also plans on introducing musical ambassadors to his thousands of students, with famed musicians such as Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and John Legend, as well as Israeli musicians, who will teach the students iconic songs that will be posted on the program’s private YouTube channel.
Students can watch lessons multiple times and access all 29 lessons offered during the course of the school year.
The program, like many that Broza has sponsored, is for Jewish and Arab kids, and will be made available throughout Israel.
“It’s for everyone,” he said. “Kids in little towns, kids in big cities. Everyone needs something like this.”