As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 19 – Spring 2022
In recent music news, the Fender Play Foundation has just added two new female members to their board of directors. Dedicated to “equipping, educating, and inspiring the next generation of players,” the Fender Play Foundation has put countless instruments into the hands of aspiring musicians and developed a unique virtual curriculum with the LA Unified School District to help students in the program learn guitar, bass, and ukulele.
We spoke with its newest board members, Kathy Fletcher and Twila True, about the new changes they’re proposing for the Foundation and how they feel their own experiences and philanthropic efforts may influence the future of the Foundation.
What made you join the board, and how does its mission align with your own personal beliefs and values?
Kathy: I joined the Fender Play Foundation Board because I love music, and I love the simplicity of the Foundation’s mission to equip, educate and inspire the next generation of players. I also believe in the power of the arts to give voice to children who are struggling or misunderstood. For so many kids today, music and other forms of art are literally a lifeline. The Foundation provides that lifeline to thousands of children.
Twila: I am most passionate about helping and giving back to the youth. It is important to continue to inspire, educate and provide the tools that are necessary in all aspects of life as they are our future. I, too, believe that music has the power to change lives — it is a universal language that touches everyone.
How do you think your own past experiences working with other charitable organizations will help to improve or expand the Fender Play Foundation?
Kathy: I love start-ups and have a long history of organizing long-term, sustainable initiatives to try and make this world a better place in ways that are highly aligned with the Fender Play Foundation mission. I hope to leverage my experience to help Fender make this endeavor a huge and long-term success.
Twila: I am fortunate to work with other charitable organizations and will be able to advise on things that we can adapt from organizations outside of music that will be valuable to help improve and expand the Fender Play Foundation. It is also beneficial that I can bring awareness about the Foundation beyond the music industry to help expand the reach as we grow beyond our goals.
Kathy, you served as executive director of Turnaround Arts under Michelle Obama. Which projects or initiatives did you spearhead, and what was it like working with the First Lady?
Kathy: I was the national director and co-founder of Turnaround Arts, which used the power of the arts to improve educational outcomes in some of the nation’s most under-resourced schools. It was an incredible experience, as you might imagine. It was the honor of my life to work for Mrs. Obama and the other incredible people at the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities under the Obama Administration and a joy to be in service to thousands of students and teachers in the schools we worked with. Michelle Obama is even smarter, warmer, and more amazing than you imagine, and I really admire her unwavering commitment to the arts and to all children everywhere.
You’re also the Executive Director of Silkroad, the global-reaching music nonprofit based at Harvard University founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. I’m sure you’ve seen many Silkroad Ensemble performances. Which is one of the most memorable for you?
Kathy: This past November, under the Artistic Directorship of the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens, Silkroad performed a show in Boston in front of a live, full house. The show was called Phoenix Rising, Silkroad’s celebration of rebirth and life after the incredibly difficult time we have all been through these past couple of years. The concert was both a collective grieving moment and a celebration of joy. Definitely a show I will never forget.
A little birdie told us (pun intended) that you raise chickens! Please tell us more (and most importantly, how you do that in-between all your other commitments)!
Kathy: It’s true; after 25 years of giving it our all in Washington DC, my family moved to a beautiful, remote town almost at the tip of Cape Cod. We finally realized our dream of a more sustainable life, more time in nature, and a little tiny farm. We have six hens and a rooster named Henry. Full disclosure — my husband does all the work, and I just get to enjoy their cuteness and daily fresh eggs.
Twila, you’ve done some amazing work with your own foundation, the True Sioux Hope Foundation. Do you think there will be some opportunities for the two organizations to come together down the road?
Twila: I am very focused on the pure initiatives of the Fender Play Foundation as they are a well set-up organization with like-minded beliefs and values. Good people always find ways to help those in need. I do believe there are endless opportunities for the two organizations to come together to make a difference that will continue to change the way music is taught and learned through innovative and sustainable initiatives.
In addition to all your philanthropic efforts, you also own a fine jewelry company (singer Jordin Sparks even has her own featured collection with you). Has jewelry always been a passion of yours?
Twila: Being able to disrupt the industry in new ways has always been interesting to me. Like many, I personally love jewelry and wanted to bring affordable yet fun, trendy pieces to everyone, especially giving the opportunity for all to make their first fine jewelry purchase easy.
What is one of your personal favorite pieces from your collection?
Twila: I have many favorites, from the colorful, affordable enamel mixed with yellow gold to bespoke designed pieces with artists such as Lil Jon. If I had to choose one, the 15 Carat Marquise Diamond Ring has always been top on my list because it’s a one-of-a-kind design paired with large pear-shaped accent diamonds that makes this extremely rare.
About Kathy Fletcher:
Kathy Fletcher is the Executive Director of Silkroad, the global-reaching music nonprofit based at Harvard University founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Kathy recently served as the Director of Creative Leadership Initiatives at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Executive Director of Turnaround Arts under First Lady Michelle Obama.
About Twila True:
Twila True is the Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and President of True Family Enterprises, which she co-founded with her husband, Alan True. Twila co-founded True Children’s Home and also founded the True Sioux Hope Foundation, which provides resources to the members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.