Keys 4/4 Kids is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that strives to initiate transformation in the lives of our children, our donors, and our community through the production and exploration of art and music. Keys 4/4 Kids accepts donations of used and unwanted pianos and its professional piano technicians rejuvenate them for resale. Proceeds from these sales support three major youth and civic programs: Piano Placement, Pianos on Parade, and The Ellen Project. These programs provide opportunities for artistic expression in our youth, encourage community partnerships, and make the arts available to all people, regardless of income, age, or previous arts experience.
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Sixteen Years Ago...
After classes, Newell volunteered his time teaching music and art to kids in a North Minneapolis after school program called MUSE. Newell saw the power and potential of the arts to build self-esteem and confidence in our young people.
He needed a way, however, to pay for musical instruments, staff, and supplies for the program. Over a summer, Newell taught himself how to fix old pianos and began collecting and selling them out of his parents’ basement. During the first summer, Newell raised a little over $10,000. In 2002, he began offering the MUSE program at three locations in North Minneapolis, teaching music and art to over 120 students for free.
A looming financial crisis forced funders to suspend their annual contributions. Operating on a model reliant on grants and recurring donations, the MUSE program could not afford to keep its doors open without these renewals.
"...we had that crash and a couple of our funders were in the finance industry so they didn't renew and I had to close operations in North Minneapolis. It was a big ordeal..."
"..I said I'm going to do it differently. I don't want to have to close doors. That was a really rough thing, to have to dissolve a nonprofit. So I thought, well, we'll focus on the used piano sales because that was always a consistent revenue stream for us...We'll use the profits to support the programs for kids...And absolutely use grants and donations as they come in but that we wouldn't have to rely on keeping our doors open with those renewals."
In 2009, Keys 4/4 Kids moved into a larger warehouse in St. Paul...
In 2010, Keys 4/4 Kids inaugurated its PIANO PLACEMENT program and PIANOS ON PARADE (POP). These two charitable initiatives began making good on the nonprofit's promise to inspire young people to believe in themselves and have grown every year in scale, participation, and community support.
The business of collecting, refurbishing, and selling old pianos continued to gain momentum. By late 2011, Keys 4/4 Kids had expanded to Chicago, IL and Kansas City, MO.
In 2012, a permanent headquarters and additional storefront was established in Belle Plaine, MN.
In 2017, Keys 4/4 Kids began expanding program activities to several other national markets across the United States. We hope to share the power of music and the arts with more people and communities in the coming years.