In 2007, Kirk Johnson moved to Phoenix from Indiana to be a music teacher in the Roosevelt School District. While in the classroom, he noticed a burning desire from children to learn how to play instruments. Knowing the value that instrumental music education brings to the life of a child, Kirk founded SOUNDS Academy. SOUNDS Academy is a nonprofit music education organization that teaches, mentors, and provides musical experiences and opportunities to underserved youth. Now in its third year, SOUNDS Academy provides instruments, classes, and lessons for 150 students and an additional 4,000 students attend concerts and are exposed to instruments through its Instrument Petting Zoos.
In 2015, Kirk participated in Fast Pitch and won the Mentor’s Choice Award. Watch his pitch. Read more about his experience and how it shaped his way forward.
What did winning Mentor’s Choice at Fast Pitch mean for you, personally?
When you do something like Fast Pitch, you don’t really know what to expect. There are so many excellent organizations and speakers that it can be intimidating. I remember listening to other speakers and being so impressed with their delivery and poise. I would listen to the advice given during the practice rounds and think about how it related to me, and what I was trying to do. Everyday I tried to make my pitch better. Winning the Mentor’s Choice Award was special to me because it meant that the mentors were seeing the progress that I was making. It was great to receive acknowledgement that I was accomplishing my goal.
What did it mean for SOUNDS Academy?
Pitching at Fast Pitch allowed a new audience to learn about SOUNDS Academy. Talking to audience members in the networking reception was a special opportunity because it gave audience members a chance to learn what we were trying to do. Everyone is so receptive and looking to find out about what organizations are forming that seek to improve Arizona. The Mentor’s Choice Award was icing on the cake of an eventful and memorable night.
What’s your involvement with SVPAZ and its Partners today?
When you are involved with SVPAZ and its Partners, the relationship does not have to end after Fast Pitch. I still reach out to members to have coffee. I check in with individuals: Board Chair Patrick Armstrong, Executive Director Terri Wogan-Calderón, Director of Partnerships Sentari Minor, and others to say hello or to ask for advice. I’m also still close to my mentors – Andy and Christy. They genuinely support what I do and support SOUNDS Academy’s mission. I am sometimes invited to speak to other nonprofits about the experience or my experience as an arts organization. This is a community of changers that I am proud and lucky to have met.
What advice would you share with nonprofits selected for the 2017 program?
Listen; People have great advice.
Talk; People want to hear about your vision.
Build Relationships; You can always continue the conversation.
Experiment with your Pitch; You won’t know if it will work until you try it.
Practice; It builds confidence.
If you could share with other Valley leaders, share the Fast Pitch experience in one word.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Fast Pitch program, join us March 28 at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are currently on sale.
Kirk Johnson has been on a mission to provide the gift of music to lower income schools and children. As a musician, performer, and educator; Kirk believes that all children should have access to music education. Out of this belief, he founded SOUNDS Academy, a non-profit music education organization that teaches, mentors, and provides musical experiences and opportunities for underserved youth. SOUNDS Academy gives instruments to students that cannot afford one of their own.