Page 8 of The Keeper

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This kid named Andre is begging me to teach him to play drums. I’m in my office at my day job, where I’m program director for the local boys and girls club at Children’s Services Las Vegas, and Andre has somehow found out that I’m a drummer.

“My sister says you’re, like, a crazy good drummer, Ms. Hirsch. She saw you light it up at Goldberg’s a couple weeks ago.”

“I cannot confirm or deny, Andre.”

“Well, I’m just sayin’ yougottateach me now,” he says, bouncing back and forth on his heels. He’s tall and skinny with a carefully shaped afro and warm, dark eyes.

“I don’tgottadonothin’, my guy.” I’m grinning so he knows I’m joking.

“Please, Ms. Hirsch,” he says, putting his hands together as if in prayer. “I really want to learn.”

“How are your summer school classes looking?”

“Good. Two Bs. Please, Ms. Hirsch.Please.”

“Oh, since you said please three timesandyou’re doing well in your classes, I guess I’ll talk to my boss to see if we can get some kind of music thing going.”

“Yasss!” Andre pumps his arm in celebration.

“Okay, get gone, I’ve got work to do.” I gesture him away gently.

He bounds off and my heart stays warm for a long time afterward. I really do love my job. I love playing drums in a band, but I also really, really love working with these kids. My parents—practically Hollywood royalty—look way down their noses at my social work degree and my low-paying nonprofit job. Frankly, their disdain is part of the appeal, but only a small part. The kids who come here are kids who might not get dinner otherwise or homework help. Their parents may work several jobs to make ends meet. Some of them are functionally homeless. It can be hard to see kids struggling, but it’s also rewarding to see them succeed. It never ceases to amaze me how different a child can be, how well they can do, when there’s an adult in their corner. Someone who believes in them, interacts with them, and shows genuine interest in their welfare.

After a quick lunch at my desk, I head in to see my boss, Tara, who runs this place. She’s just over forty, I think, with a shoulder-length bob that falls in messy waves. She’s pretty. Trendy. Fit. Seems to mostly have it together. She works hard but not in a crazy, workaholic kind of way. I like her.

“What’s up?” she asks, not taking her eyes from her computer as I walk in.

“Andre wants me to teach him to play drums.”

She laughs and looks up at me. “That kid has big dreams.”

“He does. And I could certainly lug my kit in here to teach him, but I’m wondering if there might be other kids who would like to learn an instrument.”

“I mean, there probably are. What do you have in mind?”

“I’m thinking we could create a music education program. Maybe start out with basic lessons. Drum kit, bass guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, and whatnot. Then maybe like a rock camp kind of thing where kids can get together and make their own music…maybe?”

“That sounds like quite an endeavor. And expensive,” Tara says. “We don’t have it in the budget to buy a bunch of instruments.”

“There may be a couple of lending libraries in town where kids would check out an instrument for a week or two for home to practice. I can check into that part, but yeah, we’d need a stash for here, too. And you’re right, it could be expensive, but not prohibitively so, I don’t think. And I was thinking there could be some donors who might be willing to sponsor something like this? I mean, you’re the fundraiser, so you tell me, but we have a lot of people interested in music in this town, so…”

“Well, put some ideas down on paper and let me know what your vision is. I like the concept, generally, especially if we could tie it to some minor celebrity or something.”

“Speaking of which”—I wiggle a finger back and forth at her—“why didn’t you mention the Crush Foundation called?”

“Indeed, they did.” Tara drops her head in mock defeat. “I just got busy with other stuff, but the gist of it is they want to start doing more visible partnership with youth-focused organizations. It’s a total PR thing and they picked us as one of the charities. I think they want to engage players and their families where it makes sense but will also allow the guys to engage in ways that are meaningful to them.”

“Do we get any money out of it? I mean, it’s cool they want to partner but arranging PR events isn’t really helping the kids. Not in any tangible way, anyway. Sorry to be crass about it. It just sounds like a lot of work for not a lot of payoff.”

She laughs. “Spoken like a person not easily starstruck.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” I mutter.

“I’m hoping we get a nice fat check for programming out of it, and your concern is valid. We can’t be putting a bunch of human capital behind something with one-sided value. But hey, maybe there’s a way to work in your new music program idea? Instruments cost money, right? The Crush Foundation Music Workshop has a nice ring to it, right?”

“Not bad, I admit.”

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