Stepping into the future…

By Published On: November 2, 2022

Dear Music Will Friends, Supporters and Champions,

Two big pieces of news! First big piece of news….

I’m excited to announce that, beginning this January, I will be taking on the brand-new role of Chief Visionary Officer at Music Will (formerly known as Little Kids Rock). This new role will allow me to focus exclusively on vision, strategy and evangelism. I founded this organization 20 years ago with the belief that music education is a right and with a vision that music education needed to become as diverse as the people it serves. So why the new role and why now?

This is the video that announced the birth of our nonprofit 20 years ago (who is that kid narrating?). In it, I said that we wanted to see highly inclusive, student-centered music education “in your neighborhood” and “at every school.” That was a heady statement for a nonprofit which in 2002 had a 70k budget and no paid staff. 

Two decades later and Music Will has a budget of nearly 100x that and a talented, diverse, and professional staff across the country. Music Will has also grown to become the largest nonprofit music program in US public schools today, having brought the transformational gift of music education to over 1,000,000 students across all 50 states.

Goals as big as the ones we have already achieved can’t be reached solely by the work of a single organization. We’ve only been able to reach for goals this big through our system-changing approach to service, an approach I conceived of from our earliest days. 

For two decades now, we’ve been convening school teachers, school districts, local and state governments, corporations, private philanthropists and other nongovernmental organizations to drive us all towards the meaningful, lasting, systemic change we dream of for the field of music education. Thanks to the efforts of this diverse set of stakeholders we’ve convened and the work they do, I’m exhilarated to see the wheels of this kind of systemic change begin to move.

I am only able to fully and faithfully begin to serve in my new role as Chief Visionary Officer at Music Will, because, on January 1, 2023, my long-time partner and collaborator, Janice Polizzotto, will be stepping up to become Music Will’s Interim Chief Executive Officer.  Janice is a seasoned nonprofit professional who has deep knowledge of both our organization and the diverse set of communities we serve. 

Over the past twelve years, Janice has faithfully served our mission in all the following roles: first as funder, then as a Board Member, then as our Chief Development Officer, and, most recently as our Chief Relationship Officer. Janice and I have worked arm-in-arm with our Board of Directors to build an exceptionally strong C-Suite of seasoned nonprofit professionals.  The Executive Committee and I will work with Janice to ensure a smooth transition when she assumes her new role come January.

Second big piece of news….

As an acknowledgement of 20 years of working tirelessly in service of our mission, our Board of Directors has offered me a sabbatical to help me recharge my batteries, write, dream, and prepare for the next stage of my journey at Music Will.  

These past couple of years have been difficult ones for so many people due to the pandemic and the disruptions it caused. This was certainly true for me as the leader of an organization like Music Will which also had to rise, like many other youth serving nonprofits, to meet the crisis at hand. During that time, my family and I faced an additional challenge when my beloved mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February 2021 and began home hospice care with my family at that time. She died peacefully in my arms on January 3rd of this year.

I am profoundly grateful to have the space to reflect – and dream! – while gathering insight and inspiration for the movement we’re building. During my new role as a system-change entrepreneur, I will also be figuring out the best way for me to “lead from behind.” I will begin my 4-month sabbatical come January of 2023. When I return, it will be in my new role as Chief Visionary Officer of Music Will and I will be reporting to the Chair of our Board. 

For some of you who have known me over the years, this may feel like a leap into the unknown. I can assure you that it is not. Over the past two decades, my closest peer group has been other hard-driving, passionate, visionary social-entrepreneur founders who are recognized leaders in their respective fields. These fellow founders all face the same great challenge and the same great opportunity that every founder faces: how to find a successor worthy enough to take their vision,born years ago, into the unknowable years ahead. Some call this “founders syndrome.” I call it “something-hard-to-do-but-something-necessary-to-do.” 

All high-impact social enterprises need to figure this out for both their short-term impact and their long-term viability. I am blessed to have so many amazing role models to learn from, such a talented collaborator and partner as Janice Polizzotto, such a gifted C-Suite of leaders and such a committed and deeply invested Board of Directors.  For all of these reasons and for so many others, I am excited to take these new and unchartered (for me) steps on my founder’s journey. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have brought our work this far and hold on to your seats…the best is yet to come!

With gratitude and love,

Dave Wish
Founder & CEO