Finding Music and Hope With Guitars Over Guns

December 29, 2022

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Today, we’re continuing our story series featuring powerful youth advocates representing our Kindness in Community Fund recipients. For this message, we’re proud to present Isaiah, an aspiring musician who’s partnered with Guitars Over Guns. Donate to our Kindness in Community Fund today to help us continue this impactful work.


When eight-year-old Isaiah was a baby, gospel music was the soundtrack of his development and his milestones: settling into a bed, giving up his pacifier. Then one day, as Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s “For Your Glory” played, his mother Rita heard her two-year-old son sing for the first time, right along with the music.

Once Isaiah began singing, he could not stop. He sang constantly for his family. He joined the elementary school choir and began rapping. He even freestyled for the first time alone in public (unpaid, he notes) at the grand opening of the full-service salon his mom manages. Isaiah’s confidence took a tumble when he was lured into a schoolyard rap battle with a girl more popular than he was — a battle he lost. After the rap battle, Isaiah felt as though he couldn’t rap again; his drive and passion for rapping and music was gone.

Rita, who’d already been looking for outlets for Isaiah’s creative talents, had already brought Isaiah to Haven Studios in Chicago, the location of Guitars Over Guns’s first community-based recording studio. There, his confidence has blossomed in a number of areas — engaging with written lyrics helps his reading and writing in honors classes, keeping musical time helps him with math, and he’s building physical endurance for performing. He’s also learning how producers layer his voice with drum and keyboard tracks, and how when anxiety crawls up his neck like a spider, music can help quiet his busy mind.

Born This Way Foundation is proud to support Guitars Over Guns through the Kindness in Community Fund. This organization offers students from vulnerable communities a powerful combination of music education and mentorship with professional musicians to help them overcome hardship, find their voice, and reach their potential as tomorrow’s leaders. Interested in helping us fund more organizations just like Guitars over Guns? Donate so we can make a difference together.

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Isaiah loves listening to music, playing on a training drum set (when his dog isn’t chewing up his drumsticks), and making movies. This December, he’ll sing at Governors State University Building with his school choir, as he’s done in past years. The confidence he’s built at Guitars Over Guns has given him a vision of what he wants to do down the road — help kids just like him explore their love of music, and gain the confidence and perspective to hang on to hope.

Isaiah has even bounced back from the blow to his confidence in rapping: “I’m the boss of my life and my brain and my body.” In the studio, he’s even composed a song of his own, “I Don’t Think That I Like Her Anymore.” He maintains that the song is about an imaginary girl, and if she has similarities to a certain schoolyard rap nemesis — or if a rematch is in the works — he’ll never tell.

We can help foster confidence, daring and self-expression in young people’s lives, just like Isaiah’s. Donate if you want to support Guitars Over Guns and other Kindness in Community Fund recipients working creatively and innovatively to support young people.

Pledge to Take Action