Helping Our Foster Children & Teens Enjoy the Gift of Music: Play It Forward

by Sonya Mastic, Play It Forward Committee Chair Sonya

Even though I grew up with my birth family, we had a very limited income. This meant that I didn’t have the same options as the other kids, including the chance to make my dream of taking music lessons come true.

But at least I had my family — “our” kids in foster care today don’t have any options. They don’t get to choose where they live, or with whom, and they’re wards of a state that’s fiscally stretched to the max. PIF Girl Trombone Jerry Wong

And that’s why Play It Forward was born: as a woman who grew up to be a musician and music teacher, I have an intimate understanding of the positive impact that making music can have on children’s lives. I also know what it’s like to be a child who can’t take music lessons. I can’t think of a better cause than giving foster children & teens the gift of making music.

How does Play It Forward work? Good question! We provide one year of FREE music lessons and a free instrument to children and teens in foster care! We also follow their progress closely to make sure that they’re a good match with their instructor and instrument – and if we see that a child is really interested and excelling at their instrument, we will find a way to continue their musical education after the one year deadline is up.

In most cases, these music lessons are the only extracurricular activity that Play It Forward students are allowed to participate in. This is the one thing these foster youth are allowed to do to help them feel like “normal” kids.

PIF Pic Boy Piano woodleyworksThe idea for Play It Forward came from my own experience watching children grow as they learned how to play their instruments. In 2011 I owned my own private lesson facility, and I watched first hand as our students blossomed, gained confidence, and functioned at a much higher level in other areas of their lives.

After learning that there weren’t any existing programs in Metro Detroit to provide foster children with music lessons and instruments, one of my friends connected me with For The Seventh Generation Executive Director Lorraine Weber – and the rest (as they say) is history.

The past three years have been fantastic! We have a committee filled with compassionate folks who have worked tirelessly to create the structure for Play It Forward and raise funds for the program. A host of music teachers, volunteers, and foster care workers have also been a tremendous help – without them, we wouldn’t be here.

Carole Hoste from the Detroit School of Music is one of our biggest supporters, and teaches many foster children and teens at her facility.

PIF pic musical scale Internet ArchiveOn paper, Play It Forward looks simple. Find a foster child or teen who wants lessons, give them an instrument, and connect them with a music teacher. In reality, though, the program is fairly complex. In addition to providing lessons, we collect donated instruments and raise funds to pay our instructors (PIF music teachers accept half of their usual rates), buy the necessary books, and pay for bus passes or other transportation to make it possible for the students to get to their lessons.

Our goal – like For The Seventh Generation’s goal – is to do whatever is necessary to actually invest, in a long term way, in our area’s foster children and teens.

Help A Metro Detroit-Area Foster Child or Teen Start Music Lessons This Year

playitforward logo for Sonya's blog

Play It Forward needs your help if you can do any of the following:

Provide music lessons at a reduced cost
Donate a new or gently-used instrument
Make a monetary gift of $25, $50, $75 (or any amount) to give “our” kids in foster care the gift of making music.

Questions? Suggestions? Wonderful! Email me ( and I’ll be happy to help!

I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning. – Plato

About Sonya Mastick:

In addition to her work with Play It Forward, Sonya Mastic is a musician, writer, researcher, entrepreneur, poet with twenty-plus years of experience that have taken her not only to every bar and club in metro Detroit, but throughout all of North America. She has had a hand in every aspect of the music industry, from live gigs and studio work to promotions and booking.

Hot Nights, Hot Music, Hot Art – 2nd Motor City Songbirds Raises Over $1500 for Metro Detroit Foster Kids

On Friday and Saturday, June 27 and 28, the 2nd annual Motor City Songbirds Festival packed and rocked the house at PJ’s Lager House in Corktown – and raised over $1,500 for Play It Forward, For The Seventh Generation’s music program for foster children and teens.

The Whiskey Charmers at Motor City Songbirds

The Whiskey Charmers at Motor City Songbirds

Sonya Mastick, the chair of Play It Forward, summed up the festival like this: “It was intensely hot both nights, but the music was hotter! The bands were great and the turn out was excellent, though people filtered in and out because of the heat.”

Here’s a sample from this fantastic festival: Oblique Noir with Sylvia Inwood and Kurt Prisbe on June 27

The Festival, which features all-women and women-fronted bands who have won or been nominated for the Detroit Music Awards, was created by Julie Sias of Pleasant Ridge. Last year’s chosen charity was Alternatives For Girls.

“The whole idea behind Motor City Songbirds is to create connection and community for people – and to make money for kids,” Julie told us.

Julie wasn’t “just” the event organizer, either; she also stepped in front of the camera (with FTSG co-founder Kelly Ramsey) at WXYZ to promote the event.

Ellen Keyt ("Keyt") is a long-time FTSG supporter

Ellen Keyt (“Keyt”) is a long-time FTSG supporter

It was her first time being interviewed, and, “… the night before I couldn’t sleep, and I felt a little nauseated, but once we got started I made it through just fine.”

We want to thank Julie for her hard work, dedication – and bravery! — and for her hard work to make it possible for “our” children and teens in foster care to enjoy the gift of making music.

But that’s not all – we’re also grateful to artist and Huntington Woods Gallery Coordinator Lisa Grix for helping organize The Mixed Media Women of Detroit Artists Marketplace, which was part of the festival on Saturday night the 28th.

And of course, we can’t forget the performers!:  

Great Aunt Ida was there for "our" foster kids

Great Aunt Ida was there for “our” foster kids