Burr’s San Juan Sound Gifts Students with Instruments after Hurricane

by Jane Ahrens
Matt Burr at San Juan Sound with Gift of Sound students. Photo Credit: Wanda Liz Vega

Old San Juan, PR — Matthew Burr, an artist best known as the drummer and founder of critically acclaimed rock band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, hosted Gift of SOUND! (GOS) – two charity events this past week during which he donated instruments to a group of students whose guitars were lost or damaged during Hurricane Maria. The Puerto Rico Department of Education assisted with locating the students after power was restored to most of the island in February.

The first GOS event took place inside San Juan Sound (SJS), Burr’s recording studio and music education facility built inside a half-abandoned building once home to WKAQ, the fifth radio station in the world and first in Puerto Rico. Following the storm, the future of the studio was in question until the power of the historic building returned before the new year and testing revealed damage was minimal.

San Juan Sound is officially a non-profit organization set to launch on September 20 – a day that will also mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria. “I did not even blink when filing my paperwork in November,” said Burr who was only halfway through his Harvard nonprofit management program when the Category 5 storm made landfall. Burr believes there is an urgency to supporting public school music programs and noted his mission is to provide disadvantaged students and independent musicians opportunities in music. “San Juan Sound will travel far beyond a traditional recording studio and offer access to transformative experiences through sound.”

Notables in attendance were Dr. Julia Keleher, (Secretary of Education) Maria Christian (Chief Academic Officer), and Jimmy Caban (Director of the Fine Arts Program). In a short speech at the conclusion of the program, Keleher said, “When you have the ability to create something like music where there is an expression or outpouring of what one sees or feels, it creates a space and sense of empowerment and control in something you are bringing to the world that was not there before. It is gained through access and this is the gift Matteo is giving today.”

The event also featured a live performance from Juan Carlos, a local legend and master of rumba flamenca, a genre developed in the Spanish region of Andalusia.

The second event took place on March 16 at the Escuela de Musica de Mayaguez. The students and their professor Alberto Baiz performed several classical arrangements on their new guitars with Burr adding percussion on a guitar case for the final song.

Matt Burr with a San Juan Sound student.

In the months leading up to the launch of NPO San Juan Sound, GOS plans to distribute the remaining lot of Epiphone guitars purchased through a generous arrangement with Gibson whose team immediately responded to Burr’s request for assistance with disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico. GOS is one of several music education programs San Juan Sound will launch this September in conjunction with a full service analog/digital recording studio and online radio station.

The next GOS event will be for music professor Ivan Rodriquez from the Flores School in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. On March 13, the school’s music facility was destroyed by vandals with damage and theft totaling $30,000 worth of instruments and computers. It was the second act of vandalism in a month and the majority of items belong to Rodriquez, a dedicated music teacher who also sells chocolate to pay for repairs to his instruments.

Stay tuned for updates on Gift of SOUND! & San Juan Sound.

About San Juan Sound:

San Juan Sound is a new non-profit music organization located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. On September 20, 2018, the organization is opening a multipurpose recording studio and music education facility featuring, online radio, concerts, workshops, and instrument donation program “Gift of SOUND!”

The organization was founded by American rock artist, Matthew Burr, who is best known as the drummer and founder of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and co-founder of the Grand Point North festival in Burlington, Vermont. He has shared the stage with the Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, Robert Plant, Roger Waters, The Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket and The Avett Brothers. Album credits include sessions with Grammy winning producers Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), Mark Batson (Dr Dre, Eminem, Dave Matthews) Jim Scott (Wilco, Tedeschi Trucks) and Don Was (Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones).

For all inquiries or questions, please contact info@SanJuanSound.org or visit www.SanJuanSound.org for updates.

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