At first Zumix co-Founder and Executive Director Madeleine Steczynski thought the news that MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett had gifted $1 million to East Boston’s popular music arts program through their foundation was some sort of internet scam.
However, once news started to spread of the gift and the couple’s gifts to other organizations across the country, Steczynski was convinced it was for real and overwhelmed by the generosity.
“It came at a time when we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary in the neighborhood,” said Steczynski. “Getting a big gift like this as we’re looking back on 30 years made me stop and pause…I was like, “Oh my god, we might truly be here another 30 years from now” and that is amazing to me. I won’t be here, but somebody will and Zumix might actually still be functional and that’s so cool.”
The gift made by Scott (who founded Amazon with her ex-husband Jeff Bezos) and her current husband, Jewett, is part of the couple’s ongoing philanthropy, and reflects Zumix’s 30-year track record of providing top-quality arts and creative technology education and employment for generations of Boston’s youth.
Steczynski said Zumix’s board is currently working on the details of how to best use the funds but investing the funds to establish long-term financial stability is a top priority.
“Officially it’s unrestricted money so our Board of Directors is really going to have to figure out what is the most prudent and best use,” said Steczynski. “My sense is we’re going to put it in some kind of an interest bearing account and it should earn a good chunk of money on the interest and that interest we can use as part of operations if we choose. I think that the most prudent thing to do is to invest the money as a quasi-endowment that kind of fell into our lap and that will give us some security moving forward.”
In the past 30 years Zumix has received national recognition and received a National Endowment for the Arts from the Obama Administration, performed alongside Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and has been the beneficiary of grant money from Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation.
“Our annual budget isn’t even $2 million yet so we are considered a very small organization when compared to others,” said Steczynski. “So it’s very humbling that we’ve received recognition in the past and recognition like this gift now. This gift from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett is national news and our organization has crossed the desks of millions of people and that is super cool.”
Steczynski added that young people and families in our community have disproportionately been set back by the effects of the pandemic and need programs like Zumix to bolster their emotional, creative, and educational well-being.
“The last year has shown us that the next generation of creative leaders in Boston needs to be prepared, engaged, and empowered, and this gift positions ZUMIX to evolve to meet their needs,” she said.
After a year of virtual programming, Zumix will offer a mix of in-person, hybrid, and virtual programs this summer with hopes of being entirely in-person this fall. Programs are offered in instrumental music, songwriting, radio broadcasting and journalism, audio engineering, and video production.
“Receiving this degree of support and recognition from a national donor is incredibly validating,” said Zumix’s Chair of the Board of Directors Nikki Stewart. “This recognition honors the hard work, dedication, and leadership of ZUMIX’s staff, several of whom are program alumni.”
Zumix will celebrate with its youth, staff, board, and community at its first in-person events – the Walk for Music and its opening Summer Concert – on July 11th in Piers Park in East Boston.
“This donation means so much to Zumix,” said Board Member Steven Snyder. “Not only will it help us with our mission in very challenging times, but given the high profile of the donors we hope it puts Zumix on the radar of other potential supporters. It really speaks to the amazing impact Zumix has had on our city’s youth for over 30 years.”
Zumix’s mission is to empower young people to build successful futures for themselves – transforming lives and the community through music, technology, and creative employment. Zumix works with 1,000 young people ages 7-18 each year. Free and low-cost programs are offered out-of-school in instrumental music, songwriting, performance, radio, audio engineering, and audio and video storytelling. Zumix also partners with three local schools – the Bradley Elementary, East Boston High School, and the McKay K-8 – to bring more arts education opportunities to Boston’s youth. In addition to youth programs, Zumix offers free concerts and events for all ages.
For more information about or to support Zumix, visit zumix.org.