At SEI, we love to celebrate the success of our clients and are truly grateful to be of assistance to them on their journey to building stronger organizations. We are thrilled to be able to highlight the Capacity Building Academy (CBA),  a year-long workshop sponsored by First 5 San Bernardino and led by the Inland Empire Community Collaborative (for more about the CBA, click here) and those organizations who have taken what they have learned during their participation and maximized it.

Music Changing Lives participated in the CBA in 2017 and has recently celebrated the major milestone of 20 years of service in the Redlands, CA area and beyond. Josiah Bruny, the organization’s founder,  published a post on Facebook that captures the importance of grassroots organizations, the tenacity of a founder with a vision and drive, and the power of capacity building to bolster and strengthen an organization. We are sharing an excerpt of this post here:

My name is Josiah Bruny and I am the CEO and founder of Music Changing Lives located here at the Redlands Community Center and sever locations throughout Moreno Valley. Over the years for me The city of Redlands has provided a community of peers that I can turn to for advice, a wealth of information and resources, leadership development and tools that of which have made me a better leader in my community. All of which has made me a better leader in my Organization and better prepared to serve our community. 

I’m going to ask you to step into my shoes for a moment:

Imagine that you had a dream that you were to teach budding artists to own their intellectual properties. You then seek out to open your own studio by selling CDs, privatized waters and more on the streets across the country, informing everyone that supported you one day you will build a studio to take kids off the streets. Fast forward 20 years you now work for a small organization in transition in a medium-sized city that’s also in transition. In your organization, space is limited, money is limited, but somehow you have amazing dedicated teaching artist. At its core, your job is serving your community through the arts. You’re watching your city grow and change rapidly and you’re seeing barriers to participation in the arts, like rising cost of living, increased traffic and lack of public transportation, surfacing for adults and youth. 

That’s where we were when I joined the IECC team and cohort 7 whoop whoop, and despite the disparities, we wake up day in and day out on a journey to build our capacity to serve our communities. 

I want to thank First 5 San Bernardino and Susan Gomez (IECC) along with the many other agencies that have taken a holistic look at all of the building blocks that we would need to be successful in undertaking this program, from facilities issues to marketing to teaching artist training to partnership development, and they helped us look at all of these building blocks through the lens of the needs of our organization. They helped us develop a sustainability plan that is turning things in the right direction for Music Changing Lives. 

Using the tools we got from IECC and Lisa Watson [and] Kelly Marschall (SEI), we facilitated a conversation about expanding our Changing Lives Showcase model with our board and staff and had the most honest and revealing conversations about ourselves and our experiences and perspectives that our organization had ever had. 

As a team, we worked to collaboratively build a sustainability plan that would challenge our board and a curriculum that would let all of our teaching artists be challenged and inspired and that would be relevant and exciting for all participants across the IE and beyond. 

We talked less about the art, and more about the students and families we would welcome into our program. 

To date we’ve grown from an in-home studio to developing a year around program within the Redlands Community Center to a 21-week Showcase in the likeness of America’s Got Talent servicing 4500 students annually. We’ve even gone as far as helping deliver Haiti much-needed supplies after the 2010 earthquake and begun discussions of expansion with Brazil, Arizona, and Sacramento. 

Over the last 20 years, we’ve learned and grown as an organization. We saw students build friendships with one another, graduate college and become long life contributors to our community themselves and have even hired a few of our students along the way. One of my staff members told me the other day “I don’t know who learned more me or my students.” And I feel the same way. 

Music Changing Lives is doing just that Changing Lives through a set of principles that can be learned, an achievable set of small adjustments we can make to many of our programs that can significantly benefit everyone in our community young and old. 

My journey as a key piece of my organizations’ service to our community is just the beginning. The partners surrounding us have transformed my organization— because we were ready to be transformed. 

SEI would like to thank Josiah and Music Changing Lives for all that they do in their community and in the world. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the support of First 5 San Bernardino and the amazing work of the IECC in the Inland Empire area in knitting together resources to collectively support so many small, effective, and impactful organizations in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties like Music Changing Lives.