By Cherri GreggREAD MORE: Philadelphia's Gun Violence Epidemic Continues To Have Devastating Impact On City's Youth
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Josh Craft, 28, fell in love with music the first time he picked up a guitar, at age 14.
“My mom bought me an acoustic guitar and I immediately fell in love with playing the guitar and writing songs,” he recalls.
Craft grew up around musicians. His mother played in country-rock band, and the Honesdale, Pa. native tagged along on gigs.
In high school, Craft played in a ska-punk band and taught guitar lessons for $10 an hour.
Eventually, he put his dreams of becoming a doctor on the back burner, deciding to study the music business.
“I was always really interested in teaching music,” says Craft, who graduated from Drexel.
Fast forward a decade to 2010, when Craft helped his then-girlfriend (and now his wife), Jessica, launch “Rock to the Future,” a nonprofit organization that provides free music education to Philadelphia’s underserved youth through after-school programs.
In the beginning, he recalls, they had little money and big dreams.
“I was a volunteer for two years, and I worked four jobs just so I could pay my rent,” says Craft. “It’s been a struggle, but it’s incredible to see how it’s benefiting these kids.”
Today, Craft has one job: he’s Rock to the Future’s program director. He provides guitar lessons, and runs the after-school program, weekend workshops, and summer camp.
Over the past four years, he says, the group’s impact has grown from 13 students to now touching more than 250 families each year.
Kids can come into the program between ages 9 and 14, and they can stay until they graduate high school. For the after-school program, kids come in from 3pm to 6pm and must complete their homework before they can practice music.READ MORE: Here Is Where The Pennsylvania Primary Race For The Senate Seat Stands
For many young people, the experience is life-changing.
“They’re writing their own songs, (and) we get them into their recording studio,” says Josh Craft. “Getting this type of exposure at this age could have a huge impact.”
His programming includes performances at major Philadelphia venues such as the World Café Live. The young musicians have had several cool gigs including opening for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Soul, and playing for tree-lighting ceremonies.
“My hope is that they continue to enjoy music,” says Craft, “and I hope they share it with other people.”
And even though Craft gets paid to do what he does, he says it’s not about the money. “It’s just a really rewarding experience,” he says.
To hear the kids in action, check out Rock to the Future’s young musicians holiday performance at St. Michael’s Church in Fishtown, on December 20th. For more info, go to rocktothefuturephilly.org.
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