A Columbia family is honoring the memory of their son and brother by introducing music to kids who don’t have the resources to purchase an instrument or take lessons.
In his short career, Aaron Reed was a founding member of two bands, The Runways (2006–2010) and New World Commotion (2010–2014). While spending time in Ireland, he also recorded a solo album.
A graduate of Hammond High School, Reed also found great joy in leading others to pick up a musical instrument.
Tragically, he died suddenly in February 2014 in Buffalo, N.Y., when he was 21. His family, still grieving the loss, has started a foundation through which they hope to carry forth his passion for getting people to play music.
The Pick Me Up Foundation, named for the last song he composed, has the mission of providing musical instruments, equipment and lessons to under-resourced kids.
His parents, who live in Kings Contrivance, along with his sister Julia, a University of Maryland student, have been collecting used musical instruments and, by working with nonprofit partners, giving them to kids who are entering the world of music.
The effort is even more poignant given that, after driving his son’s belongings back from Buffalo, Brian Reed parked his loaded van in his driveway overnight. Sometime during the night, someone broke into the vehicle and stole Aaron’s prized electric guitar — a Fender Stratocaster — along with his amp, and other equipment worth more than $10,000.
First, Hear the Music
Brian Reed said the foundation is about more than collecting instruments and funds; it’s about keeping his son’s love of music alive. Aaron Reed’s songs are posted on the foundation’s web site at www.thepickmeupfoundation.com.
“We decided to start the foundation because Aaron loved playing music and getting other people turned onto music, especially in his own age group,” said Reed. “When he was in high school, he bought his own recording equipment. He turned the downstairs into a recording studio. He loved recording the music of others, and it made him genuinely happy to see how excited they were when they heard their music on a CD. We just thought a good way to honor him would be to come up with a foundation that would help kids that don’t have access to musical instruments or lessons or things like that.”
Now, the foundation is raising money to repair and recondition the collected instruments. “We now have more than 250 instruments. On average, it costs $50 to recondition each instrument before it can be placed in a kid’s hand,” explained Reed. “That’s $12,500.”
To help raise that money, Reed — a professor and the chair of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering at University of Maryland, Baltimore County — will be bike riding this July from Columbia, taking off from the restaurant Nottingham’s, to Buffalo, a journey of some 400 miles.
And that’s where the business community can participate, Reed said. “We are doing two things to raise money: We are asking people one-on-one, and we are also having a group challenge that people can take into their workplaces, their churches, neighborhoods and other groups.”
Adding a celebrity flair, the Goo Goo Dolls rock band donated a signed guitar that the foundation will raffle off to those who sponsor the ride. Reed is calling the trip “Ride for Music.”
Chamber Getting the Word Out
When Reed first started the instrument drive, he cast a wide net, he said. “I was figuring out ways to get the word out.”
He joined the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and began networking with businesses, and they, in turn, have begun informing other businesses about Pick Me Up’s mission.
“[The Chamber has] been very supportive,” said Reed. “They posted information on their web site about the instrument drive and will post details about the bike ride as well. The Chamber is one of the best ways of getting local companies involved on a more continual basis.”
Local Businesses Chipping In
Already, local businesspeople are helping to support the Pick Me Up Foundation. Reed is working with Jim Gross, owner of Kidz In Training, who also coaches track at Hammond High School, as his trainer for his long bike ride. Scott Ewart, who runs ScottE Software, is assisting Pick Me Up Foundation with web site design as well as Facebook and Twitter updates. When Reed is on the ride, Ewart will help locate him and send updates to his supporters via social media.
“We are not just about soliciting funds,” said Reed. “What really honors Aaron’s spirit of generosity is getting that instrument in a kid’s hand. That’s the outcome we want.”
Reed is definitely looking for corporate sponsors, but more than that, he’d like his son’s music to be heard. “I want to get Aaron’s music out there and have it make an impact. Just think if his music was listened to by thousands of people.”