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South Jordan Journal

Pianos for Schools provides keynotes for growing minds

May 06, 2024 04:32PM ● By Peri Kinder

The Pianos for Schools foundation places pianos in schools to help students benefit from music education. (Photo courtesy Pianos for Schools)

Michelle Willis started playing the piano at 5 years old. In fourth grade, she picked up the violin. Then she tried to learn any musical instrument she could get her hands on. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Boise State University and teaches at Early Light Academy, a charter school in South Jordan. 

Willis understands the value of music and is passionate about ensuring that Utah students have access to pianos and music programs, especially in underserved communities in the state.

In the wake of budget cuts that affect music and arts programs across the country, Willis founded Pianos for Schools to address the need for music education in the classroom. 

“It doesn’t matter where you live in this world, music is a universal language,” she said. “I’ve seen in the junior high where I teach that life is tough for these teenagers…Being able to come into a music class where you can do something that speaks to your soul and improves your mood and helps you deal with emotions that you have, there’s nothing like it.”

The Pianos for Schools’ mission is to foster creativity and a lifelong appreciation for music by providing new and used pianos to schools in need.  Willis has set a goal to raise $50,000 by July 31 to place 10 pianos in Utah schools. The foundation will collaborate with communities and educators to find areas with the greatest need. 

According to the National Association for Music Education, students involved in music programs are more likely to attend college and demonstrate higher reading and math skills. However, in many schools, music education remains underfunded and overlooked.

Last year, Willis and her husband were able to donate four pianos. One to a school, one to a church, one to a Rotary club and one to a family whose piano had been stolen from a U-Haul. It sparked the idea for the nonprofit, a mission Willis has been happy to create. 

“They were just thrilled to have the pianos,” she said. “We know that it’s going to be used for years. A good piano can last 50 years if it’s taken care of. So, we’re talking about generations of students who will have the opportunity to use it and perpetuate music.”

Willis said research shows music education can help students perform better academically, increase their social skills and emotional well-being, and enhance cognitive skills. She strongly believes music should be integral to a child’s education. 

Pianos for Schools invites community members, businesses and music enthusiasts to contribute to the foundation’s efforts. The foundation aims to create a future where every student has access to the transformative power of music.

The charity accepts monetary donations but also takes pre-owned pianos from churches, schools or families to donate to schools. For more information, visit or contact Willis at [email protected]

“If you want to talk about music on a scientific level, just the physics of it, everything connected to the earth and music is those frequencies that can heal in a way that nothing else can,” she said. “It is super deep. Music is healing and powerful in ways that no other ways can be.” λ