Ep 128: Making Beautiful Music With Community-Driven Partnerships (with Henry Donahue)

by Joan Garry

Learn how Save the Music Foundation creates long-term renewable relationships that lead to multi-year investments from philanthropic funders.


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When public schools look to cut costs, music and the arts often become casualties. They move from core pieces of a school’s culture and community to the easiest programs to toss overboard. Yet study after study shows how music and arts education makes students and schools more successful, with concrete benefits to academic performance and students’ well-being.

Former colleagues of mine at MTV Networks understood this power and their own responsibility to make music education a priority. And so it was that in 1997, they launched VH1 Save The Music.

My guest today Henry Donahue is an advocate, a musician and the Executive Director of the Save The Music Foundation, now a standalone nonprofit that has started music programs at thousands of schools in hundreds of U.S. public school districts.

In this episode he shares the story of Save the Music and what it takes to build community-driven partnerships that lead to multi-year investments in large public school districts.

We discuss how Save the Music creates long-term renewable relationships with the philanthropic funders for those projects, and what it takes to make systemic change through music.


Henry Donahue is the Executive Director of Save The Music, a national nonprofit that helps students, schools and communities reach their full potential through the power of making music.

Prior to Save The Music, he was COO & Head of Partnerships at Purpose, a digital strategic and creative agency that focuses on social impact projects. Notable clients included Everytown for Gun Safety, the ACLU, Oxfam International, Ford Foundation, Nike, IKEA, Audi and Liverpool FC.

Henry has also worked as a media executive focused on digital product development. He has held senior executive positions at Discover Magazine, Condé Nast, PRIMEDIA and LendingTree.com.

He spent most of the 1990’s on the road across the USA as a fundraiser for political candidates including U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller (WV) and Ron Wyden (OR). At the same time, he was playing guitar in an indie rock band and running a small independent record label.

Henry has an AB in American History from Harvard College and an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia.