Austin nonprofit gives the gift of music to impoverished youth abroad

AUSTIN, Texas — A science and music teacher from Casis Elementary in West Austin spent her summer bringing western music to the land of the Maasai Mara.
Nicole Stevens has been making the trek overseas since 2008. Each year, she teaches fellow teachers how to master the recorder.

"We teach them as if they are a child in the classroom," she said. "They are really fun to work with. They really are."
Stevens said her years of experience with the musical instrument allow her to pass along knowledge of common challenges students face.
"The younger the child, the little bit harder it is for them to grasp," she said.
Stevens spent the summer in Kenya.
"It's rewarding for me to go there and provide something for those kids--the knowledge of music that they don't have because it opens up a whole different world," Stevens said.
The global excursion is part of a program called Recorders Without Borders. Founder Lynn Brooks said the nonprofit started nine years ago as a solution to a problem: what to do with those plastic flutes after elementary school.

"They come primarily from elementary students who are moving on to middle school," she said.
"We have random adults who will send their recorders to me with a nice note."
Those recorders are cleaned and taken around the world to schools like this one, so a new crop of students can breathe life into them.
"Kids said to their teacher that this was the best gift they had ever received," Brooks said. "For them, it opened up a whole world of music."
There are several teachers that fan out around the world each summer, altogether costing about $10,000 a year.
You can make a tax-deductible donation to Recorders Without Borders by clicking here. The website also has options to help you recycle your used recorder.


 By Jeff Stensland