The Otis Redding Foundation: Empowering and Enriching Young People with Music Education | Reverb Gives

The Otis Redding Foundation

Reverb Gives provides students, teachers, and leaders of music programs with the instruments that they need, directly from the Reverb marketplace. Since its launch, Reverb Gives has had the opportunity to help support a variety of remarkable organizations committed to making the world a more musical place.

Otis Redding

With so many unique missions, all revolving around music and music education, we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight some of these organizations, detailing their cause and highlighting the great work that they’re doing with music.

With today marking the 51st anniversary of seminal singer-songwriter Otis Redding's death, we wanted to speak to an organization that was started in his honor, the Otis Redding Foundation. Formed in 2007 Zelma Redding, Otis' wife, the foundation continues Otis Redding's philanthropic commitment to bettering communities by investing in youth music education.

At the time of his death in 1967, Redding was putting together what he hoped would be an annual summer camp at the 400-acre Big "O" Ranch that would see professionals from all over the music industry teaching underprivileged children from throughout central Georgia. Though Redding passed before the camp could take place, the Otis Redding Foundation saw his idea through with the establishment of the Otis Music Camp—one of many programs and initiatives the foundation supports.

What kinds of programs does the Foundation support? Can you talk about initiatives like the Otis Music Camp, Camp Dream, and Center for Creative Arts?

The Otis Redding Foundation creates an array of music education programming for young artists of all ages, offering a unique, world-class product. Many young people in the area do not get the chance to experience music and arts education. Thanks to the amazing support from sponsors, grantors, and individual donations from around the world, program costs are kept low and affordable and scholarships are offered.

The Otis Music Camp—now in its 12th year and held at the Townsend School of Music on the campus of Mercer University—has grown from a five day camp with a dozen students to a two-week intensive program with over 70 campers, ages 12 to 17, and over 30 coaches. Camp DREAM, a complete music and arts program, had its inaugural session at the Tubman Museum in October 2018, serving children ages 5-11. The Center for Creative Arts opened in 2016 and offers private and group lessons to all age ranges, from school-aged children to adults, for guitar, piano, vocals, engineering, songwriting workshops, and more.

What communities has the Otis Redding Foundation been a part of? How do kids get involved with the organization? Do they generally have musical backgrounds or experience, or is it mostly new to them?

Students come from diverse backgrounds across Central Georgia, with some traveling from states like Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee to take part in the Otis Music Camp. Many of the students participate in the programs until they reach age limitations, at which point they often continue to be involved as volunteers and Camp Coaches.

Our partnerships with local youth and arts organizations, plus word of mouth and storytelling via our marketing, means we have a constant new stream of young people who are getting involved with the Foundation. Their backgrounds vary, which is one of the aspects that we are very proud of. No musical talent or ability is required for any of the programming!

How about the music instructors and the teams that work with the Otis Redding Foundation? What are their musical backgrounds, how did they get involved with the cause?

The team that works full-time at the Otis Redding Foundation offices is small but mighty, with strong connections to Otis Redding himself. The vice president and executive director Karla Redding-Andrews is the daughter of Otis Redding, and Justin Andrews—Director of Special Projects & Outreach—is Redding’s grandson. Mrs. Zelma Redding, Otis’ widow and the founder and president of the Foundation, keeps a watchful eye over all things Otis Redding- and Foundation-related!

Executive assistant, Leila Regan-Porter, has a strong background in music industry and marketing, with a passion for nonprofits. Mercer University graduate Sophie Leveille joined the Foundation this year as Center Director. She is a talented singer and pianist in her own right and serves as an Otis Music Camp Coach and teaches both subjects at the Center.

With the Foundation’s close ties to the music industry, we have maintained an excellent mix of professional musicians from beyond Macon, as well as utilizing the incredible local talent. The backgrounds and genres are also varied and diverse, whether it’s opera, gospel, rock, folk, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, or country. Industry professionals like entertainment lawyers, music publishers from BMI, and label managers from Rhino, all give their time to teach aspiring young musicians how to protect themselves and their art.

How is Reverb Gives helping to contribute to the Otis Redding Foundation's mission?

The Reverb Gives grant allows the Foundation to purchase instruments needed for our programming, including our camps and lessons at the Otis Redding Center for Creative Arts. It's a huge benefit to have the support to purchase items like new drum pads, youth guitars, and storage equipment that are needed for every single program that we provide.

The Otis Redding Center for Creative Arts is also able to expand with this donation, as we move into offering lessons in more instrument categories—like strings—and other areas of music-making, like engineering and production.

Are there any recent events you'd like to highlight or upcoming events you'd like to promote?

The Otis Redding Foundation will be host its first holiday concert, O’Tis The Season, on Thursday, December 13 at the Hargray Capitol Theatre in Downtown Macon. It will feature performances from The Rolling Stones' Chuck Leavell, soprano Jasmine Habersham, Otis Music Camp Allstars, the DREAM Choir, and other special guests. All proceeds from the concert benefit the Otis Redding Foundation and its programs.

For more information about the Otis Redding Foundation or to learn about how you can support the cause, you can visit the organization's website here.

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