11-time Grammy-winning brother and sister, Billie Eilish and FINNEAS O’Connell, recently partnered with the Fender Play Foundation to donate 2,500 ukuleles, and pay for lessons for the next three years to 10 schools in the Highland Park area, where they grew up.
The project started on August 16th, the beginning of the LAUSD school year and seventeen days after the release of Happier Than Ever, Billie Eilish’s most recent album. The program is for grades 3-5, teaching 50 teachers along with their students. According to The Eastsider, Billie Eilish and FINNEAS have made significant donations to the program and are helping develop it. Fender is hoping this will act as a guild for future Fender Play Foundation programs throughout LAUSD.
Billie Eilish and FINNEAS grew up in Highland Park Los Angeles and were homeschooled for all of their school years. The ukulele was the instrument Billie Eilish wrote her first song on, learning how to play at the age of six. The siblings' first major hit was the song Ocean Eyes, released in 2016. Ocean Eyes currently has over 300 million views on YouTube and continues to be well known as a modern classic. Since then Billie Eilish and FINNEAS have released two albums, including three-time Grammy-winning album When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go, and over 22 singles. On February 13th of 2020, they released No Time To Die, the theme song for the 25th James Bond movie.
Fender Play Foundation was founded in September of 2019 with the goal to donate three million dollars to youth organizations and educational institutions. Fender Play Foundation Ambassadors such as Brendon Urie and Ashly Mcbryde celebrated the launch of the program. The same year Fender made donations to the Boys & Girls Club, Notes for Notes, Young Musicians Foundation, Musack, and Adopt the Arts. Fender has created access to programs and instruments to over 8,500 students throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including donating 2,750 ukuleles.
Fender’s goals just keep growing. At the start of 2021, they developed a new goal - to provide 10,000 LAUSD students with access to musical education - and are almost halfway there, with 4,849 students and 68 teachers in the program. In 2030 Fender hopes to have 1 million students and “take the LA unified program nationwide”.
Learning an instrument, at any age, has many benefits in itself. You are likely to improve in your speech, memory, social, and problem-solving skills, but learning it as a kid teaches you to think in a creative and problem-solving mindset. Music stimulates the brain and can form new neural connections, improving brain structure. Being a musician, as well as an athlete, causes your body and mind to work together, increasing motor skills, coordination, and concentration.
There was a study at the University of Toronto conducted with students who enrolled in music classes throughout 84 public schools, showing that those who took ukulele formed social bonds and a collaborative environment in the classroom. According to Ukulele Magazine, “the research team led by psychologist E. Glenn Schellenberg - discovered that kids who took ukulele lessons had ‘larger increases in sympathy and social behavior’ than those who did not”.
The ukulele is a wonderful instrument to learn at a young age. Whether you want to improve your memory and social skills or to reduce stress and increase coordination. You will be joining over 4,800 students and teachers in the Fender Play Foundation program.
So just because Billie Eilish has already created party favor doesn’t mean you can’t write one too. Besides, she gave you the instrument to do it.