Cords for Music is a business with a mission that spans across all cities and states in the United States. The company works to raise money with the sale of their gifts to put music back into public schools across America. With high school drop out rates in some cities reaching 22%, statistics show that when music was introduced back into the curriculum, that rate lowered to 4%. The company was founded two years ago by Nicholas Coblence who has extensive training in arts administration and working knowledge in luxury brand strategy. Music is universal and serves as a form of inspiration for everyone, so when you take that away from children who is at the peak of discovering themselves, it can be detrimental. Currently partnering with Education Through Music (ETM), Cords for Music has already effected the live of approximately thirty students. That’s thirty children with a positively impacted future and a greater chance to grow into leaders and visionaries.
This week Nicholas is visiting Nashville to speak at a conference about music; this will be the second time he’s publicly spoken about his company, but he feels it’s important to articulate his vision and the importance of music in public schools. For his speech, he will draw from Ted Talk and focus on three main points of building something that inspires people to come, organic marketing and maintaining longevity.
While in music city, I had the chance to chat with Nicholas about his past, the companies present and it’s limitless future. We met at a different spot than my usual favorite, but Atmaolgy on West End was the perfect space to talk about creativity and innovation.
“I had two different channels of inspiration for the company,” Nicholas explained. “I have a masters in arts administration so I knew what it takes to inspire others through the arts. But I also started my career working for Chanel and have an extensive background in the luxury brand, or fashion world.
Four years ago I was working for a strategy firm out of London in their NYC office and I knew I wanted to get back to something in arts that inspired and impacted others. I become an emotional sap when I talk about it, but music inspires. We are living through tough times and there’s a new generation that needs to make solutions. I wanted to do something that mattered and nothing matters more than inspiring the new leaders, entrepreneurs and problem solvers of our world.”
Nicholas says one day, after being inspired by other companies who modeled their business around a social mission, he was staring at a guitar pick (an avid musician himself) and wondered how it would look as a bracelet. Soon, the idea was created and Nicholas went through the self-funded process as hands-on as he possibly could. From taking out a loan for production to learning code and building his own website, he relied on the skills he already had and developed the ones he needed to turn an idea into a brand.
As for his partnering with ETM Nicholas says he interviewed many organizations like them, but there were certain attributes of ETM that swayed his decision. Besides the fact that the organization has over 25 years of experience, placement in 49 schools and has effected over 10,000 students, the way in which they approached the change really struck Nicholas.
“You don’t have a social mission without any kind of activation,” he started. “You need to have mechanisms in place to achieve your goal and from my arts administration background, I knew what it took to start that from the bottom up and I didn’t want to go there. Once I knew I had to find a charity partner to pair up with, I personally took choosing one as a big task. Not only did ETM have a brilliant CEO, but after meeting with their marketing and managing directors I knew I supported the way they implemented music into schools. Not with something temporary like a workshop or speaker, which is great too by the way, but they actually put a music class into a school for a year. They go to the principal and say, ‘we guarantee we can change your numbers; graduation rate, drop-out rate, attendance rate, etc..’ They bring in a teacher for that classroom and pay their salary for a year, but the deal is that if the program positively effects the school’s numbers like they know it will, the school has to hire that teacher on full time and continue the music program.”
Nicholas describes music as the most global of all languages.
“It’s in our voice and our heartbeats. It’s everywhere,” he said.
With such a diverse background, I wondered where his passion for music and the arts stemmed from.
“I grew up in a musical family,” he explained. “My father was a lawyer, but owned a music academy and my mother was always playing the piano, but she also has the greatest collection of 45’s you’ll ever see. Both of my parents are from France, so music was always really important to them and I grew up using it as an escape when my parents were going through their divorce. I worked in Japan for a while and David Gray, Dave Matthews and Ella Fitzgerald were my friends. I always had my headphones in.
I received a Fender guitar for my Bar Mitzvah by a family friend that I still have to this day. Music has always meant so much to me. Some kids grew up wanting to be firemen and I wanted to be a musician.”
Nicholas says the product itself is made in America “as much as it possibly can be.”
“The truth is, not everything made here is made well,” Nicholas expressed. “Trying to get quality products at a reasonable price point means going outside of the U.S. for some things. The silver is made at a jewelry factory in Rhode Island, which is actually the jewelry capital of the U.S., but the cords come from Japan. I tried to reach out to U.S. companies that specialized in leather, or shoe laces, but the equipment and labor they would need would be extremely expensive and unless I was ordering millions of yards from them, it just wouldn’t be feasible. We make damn beautiful things here, so I’m happy I can support our local economy as much as possible.”
It costs $150 to send one child to music classes for a year, so Nicholas believes that by already effecting about thirty students, he’s reached his original expectation for his goals, but he’s always ready to push further and pursue more.
“I’ve never done this before,” he openly admitted. “I’m learning as I go, but my hope is that people will learn not only the importance of music for our youth, but the importance of entrepreneurship. I hope whoever reads this will feel like they can do something similar themselves and be inspired. I want them to be motivated and feel like they’re ready to join the movement.”
You can explore their products here and start making a difference today!