Episode 010 – Joanne Haroutounian of MusicLink on Giving Back and Running a Non-Profit

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Joanne Haroutounian is a piano pedagogy professor and founder of The MusicLink program, a non-profit organization which creates opportunities for eager students to participate in music lessons despite financial disadvantages.

In this episode, Joanne and I discuss the components of the MusicLink program, the development of a 501(c)(3), and how music teachers and individuals passionate about music education can become involved.


The early stages

  • The way to recognize musical talent is to connect a student with a music teach and watch what happens.
  • Started in Virginia and quickly grew nationwide through a grant from the Music Teachers National Association.
  • The organization became a registered 501(c)(3) to receive public donations (making it eligible to to receive public donations) and began to utilize teachers outside the National Association network to expand their reach.


  • As a 501(c)(3), a certain percentage of funding has to come from public donations. Pledge drives take place throughout the year through playathons at public venues and special drives during the Christmas season.
  • Additional funding is received regularly through grants
  • Promise to Practice – student promises to practice specific number of hours during a month, parents or other supporters donate for every hour practiced.
  • Free-will donations are accepted through the website.
  • All donations are recognized with a formal thank-you note which highlights the impact of donations on the lives of the students served.

Grant Writing

  • Begins with a letter of inquiry
  • Grant funders are interested in hearing personal stories of lives that have been helped through the mission of the organization, as well as statistics that exhibit benefits and accolades of the participants.

MusicLink opportunities

  • The organization does not just provide music lessons, it also provides opportunities for students to obtain musical instruments that have been donated through the website.  
  • Competition entry costs should not deter a MusicLink student from participating, as these can be reimbursed through donations from local/state organizations or public donations.
  • Public performances such as those during the playathons allow students the opportunity to showcase their success.


  • Lessons are offered at 50% or less of the teacher’s normal rate. Minimal cost promotes commitment while still maintaining financial feasibility.
  • Student’s eligibility for MusicLink lessons is determined based on their eligibility for free/reduced lunches
  • Students are responsible for meeting expectations of music lesson participation. If their participation is not upheld, the teacher has the right to dismiss the student.
  • Teachers are making a commitment to each student, recognizing their role is more than a just music educator, but also a mentor and confidant.

The future of MusicLink

  • Increase the student reach to 7,500 by 2020
  • Publish anecdotal evidence to research and qualitatively describe impact of music lessons on students’ musical and personal development
  • Maintain stable funding to continue the mission for years to come

Ways to get involved

  • Serve as teacher offering discounted lessons or in an administrator role as a regional, state, or local coordinator to create “links” between teachers and students.  


Books: Fourth Finger on B-flat: Effective Strategies for Teaching Piano by Joanne Haroutounian

Kindling the Spark: Recognizing and Developing Musical Talent by Joanne Haroutounian

The Independent Piano Teachers Studio Handbook by Beth Klingenstein

Research: MusicLink: Lessons Learned After Two Decades by Joanne Haroutounian, NCTM, and Lauren Serpati

Connect with Joanne

Website: https://www.musiclinkfoundation.org/


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