Meet Two Columbus Nonprofits That Make Beautiful Music

Tristan Eden

The Dick & Jane Project

Mission statement: "To empower students through songwriting"

Founder: Ben Shinabery, who studied education at Ohio State University

Founded: 2011

Story behind the name: Shinabery used to perform at open mic nights, singing the words to "Dick and Jane" books while he played guitar. The idea for the Dick & Jane Project was born when Shinabery, a teacher, started singing some of his elementary students' writing over music. People thought it was cool, and the name stuck.

How it works: "We partner students with professional music producers," Shinabery says. The students (typically middle-schoolers) write lyrics and share ideas with the producers, who then record songs. "Once the song is mastered and radio-ready, we bring it into the school and have a listening party with the kids who wrote it and the producer," Shinabery says.

Staff: In addition to Shinabery, the project has one part-time program director. The producers and musicians are hired on contract.

Get involved: "If people ask if they can volunteer, I just say, 'Listen to the music,'" Shinabery says.

Harmony Project

Mission statement: To connect "communities across social divides through art, education and volunteer service. We provide opportunities for people of different cultures, religions, ages, affiliations and orientations to work together."

Founder: David Brown, who had worked in New York City and Los Angeles and has experience "bringing together diverse populations"

Founded: Started in 2009 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2010

Story behind the name: The goal of the project is to create harmony between different people and communities. The name might not be that creative, Brown says, but simpler is better.

How it works: "We give everyday people the opportunity to sing beside professionals," Brown says. The face of the organization is the 200-voice choir, which is what most people think Harmony Project is. "But it's not just about music," Brown says. "It's about building an empathic infrastructure. We don't lead with our differences; we lead with our commonalities." The group hosts Monday night rehearsals at the Lincoln Theatre, as well as concerts twice a year.

Staff: "Throughout the year, we have close to 1,000 volunteers," Brown says, adding choir and program members are considered volunteers. Harmony Project also has three full-time and three part-time employees.

Get involved: "Come to the Lincoln Theatre rehearsals. You sign up, and when there's an opening, you get on," Brown says of joining. Members also commit to volunteering-serving meals, building playgrounds, planting trees or tending community gardens-for a certain number of hours.