Nonprofit Strikes Chord with Community

Arturo Echarte has struck a chord with the Dana Point community. Through the charity Acoustic for a Change, Echarte and his wife Susan Echarte provide free, live music for special events and collect donated instruments for local organizations and children. Using an online form, Echarte connects organizations and youth in need to local instrument donors. The results can be quite serendipitous.

Arturo Echarte, alongside wife Susan, has committed to bringing music to children through the nonprofit, charitable foundation Acoustic for a Change. Not only does Echarte collect donated musical instruments and place them with organizations and children in need, he also donates his own musical talents to special events.

Echarte recently received an email from a caseworker at Laura’s House, a domestic violence shelter, with an inquiry about an instrument. A young girl at the shelter had fled from an abusive household with her mother but had to leave her guitar behind. The caseworker reached out to Acoustic for a Change to give the girl a chance to reconnect with music.

“The girl really wanted a guitar, and she has mentioned that her favorite color was blue,” Echarte said. “It was great because I had received a blue guitar days before. It was incredible.”

A lifelong music lover and guitarist, Echarte was inspired to start a nonprofit about seven years ago because he believed there was a higher purpose for his musical endeavors. While living in Florida, he began playing acoustic guitar at charity events and networking to recruit musicians equipped to play many different genres. Acoustic for a Change now has a coast-to-coast network consisting of hundreds of musicians who can be contacted for events.

Echarte brought the idea for Acoustic for a Change with him when he moved to Dana Point, creating a nonprofit movement that spans East to West. Since he introduced Acoustic for a Change to Orange County, he has connected with organizations like Laura’s House, Mariachi for All, area Boys & Girls Clubs and Saddleback Church.

Receiving everything from pianos to clarinets, Echarte will accept any type of instrument and find it a good home. Larger instruments can be picked up by the organization in need, but often times Echarte will use his own home as a drop site for donations. Even more obscure instruments like xylophones and lutes have been donated, and Acoustic for a Change can place them with organizations, like Mariachi for All, which educates area youth on the cultural traditions of mariachi music.

“I just want someone to actually use these instruments,” Echarte said. “The life of an instrument lasts longer at an organization because it can be passed on between many different people.”

Echarte truly believes that the recipients of donated instruments will benefit from having music in their lives.

“Students and kids need to have a well roundedness and the arts bring a deeper dimension to their experience in life,” he said.

Article By Danielle Juncal in Dana Point Times.
Photo by Danielle Juncal

Couple Create Second Life for Instruments

Mark DeBellis happened to be walking through the Mercy Thrift Store at Vineyard Community Church in Laguna Niguel when he spotted a beat up classical guitar.

How much, he asked the clerk. “Oh, five bucks.”

DeBellis bought the guitar, took it home and over a few weeks found time to strip it, refinish it and restore it to good condition. Then he gave it away to an organization that will give it to another organization that will put it in the hands of a youngster who otherwise might not get the chance to play music.

That’s how Acoustic for a Change works: People donate gently used musical instruments to founders Arturo and Susan Echarte and they match the instrument to local groups that work with underprivileged children and after school programs.

Late last month, the guitar that DeBellis refurbished sat on a stand in the living room of the Echartes’ 1928 Spanish Colonial home in Dana Point. They planned to send it to the San Juan Capistrano based group Mariachi for All, which also received a trumpet recently from Acoustic for a Change.

When instruments come in, Arturo Echarte sends out a blast to organizations on his email list or posts on Facebook: Who needs this?

TEAMWORK
The Echartes, married for 25 years, say Acoustic for a Change is a ministry born from their Christian faith.

“There are so many instruments in a closet collecting dust,” Arturo Echarte says. They own and operate a successful printing, mailing and marketing business in central Florida, where Acoustic for a Change got its start about six years ago. The couple had long been bicoastal homeowners after visiting Laguna Beach for a summer vacation with their daughters, and eventually expanded Acoustic for a Change to Orange County.

Arturo is the son of Cuban immigrants who fled their native country not long after Fidel Castro came to power. Arturo’s father was a successful builder. Piano and guitar lessons were a part of childhood for Arturo, but he put the instruments down by the time he was 12. Arturo, 52, tried playing again in college, but didn’t get serious about the guitar until he was 35. He took lessons again, and found that playing music helped calm him from the stress of running a business. He played in a church band and then started playing solo in coffee shops, donating his tips to charity. From there, he got the idea to donate his time to play at charitable events.

Susan and Arturo Echarte run Acoustic for a Change, a ministry that collects gently used instruments to give to needy kids and programs. Susan Echarte holds a guitar that was found in a thrift store by a volunteer musician and refurbished. Arturo Echarte, who plays guitar, also offers and arranges free live musical entertainment for fundraisers of other charities.

Next, he noticed some of the charities could have used help with the décor and the planning for their events. That’s where Susan Echarte and her gift for organization broadened the scope of Acoustic for a Change.

Susan, 50, is available to lend advice to charities as they plan fundraisers. She calls upon skills she learned as a travel agent, the job she had when she met Arturo on a blind date that one of his cousins arranged. “If you’re going to have an event,” she says, “if your goal is to make money, I can help you.”

Running Acoustic for a Change has become pretty much a fulltime effort for the Echartes, who like to spend summers on the West Coast. Their business doesn’t demand as much of their attention as it used to, they say. Their daughters are 20 and 22, both incollege and one recently married.

Arturo Echarte recruits other musicians to perform for free at fundraisers for charities. In addition, Acoustic for a Change provides musicians to play private events, for a minimum donation that goes in part to charities and in part to the musicians. When he plays fundraisers, Arturo stays low key and in the background, strumming and picking Spanish flavored instrumental music from his guitar. There might be a table with brochures about Acoustic for a Change or he might mention the program to people who come up and chat with him. Arturo does much of the coordinating for Acoustic for a Change from his cellphone, thumbing through lists of contacts he has culled from word of mouth, email blasts, Facebook and the website, acousticforachange.com.

The Echartes say they have never failed to place an instrument, so far directing a few hundred guitars, trumpets, flutes, clarinets, violins, drums, keyboards and pianos to organizations that serve children. But there was one exception. A big, heavy accordion went unwanted for nearly a year. The Echartes, who can store only a few instruments for short periods in their garage, finally decided to put the accordion on eBay. A collector in Brazil purchased it. They donated the money to charity.

PERFECT FIT
Sometimes serendipity plays a role in the way instruments come and go. In April, a 12 year old boy accidentally left the clarinet he plays in his school band on a city bus. His mother is single and the family struggles with homelessness, Arturo Echarte said. “It was never found,” he says of the clarinet. “He was going to have to quit the school band.” Just the week before, Acoustic for a Change had swapped a guitar for a clarinet and was able to replace the boy’s lost instrument through the Illumination Foundation, an organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness.

About a month ago, three pianos were donated to Acoustic for a Change. One of them went to Hope Ministries, an organization in Garden Grove that runs a family support center in a poor neighborhood. Hope Ministries helps with basic needs such as diapers, and runs a program for abandoned and abused women. It also offers an after school program for neighborhood kids with the help of high school volunteers. Hope Ministries had two keyboards. When founder Gayle Knight saw a photograph of a Cable piano that Acoustic for a Change had available, she wanted it. She had played piano as a child and her mother was a cellist. “I just thought it would be perfect,” says Knight, who paid a mover to pick it up. “If people are not having a good day, they can go to the piano and sit and play. I want these kids to be able to do this and know that there are other ways to solve problems besides gangs and graffiti.”

The volunteer musicians with Acoustic for a Change range in age from 11 to 60. DeBellis is one of them. DeBellis runs PSB Integrated Marketing in Lake Forest and plays music on the side. That includes a regular weekend gig playing guitar in one of the bands at Saddle back Church, where the Echartes attend services. DeBellis learned about Acoustic for a Change when an email arrived about two years ago from Arturo Echarte. “If there’s a way to just further along what their purpose is and what this does for the community, ” DeBellis says, “that’s a really good thing. I just enjoy playing music for people.”

Article By Theresa Walker in Orange County Register.
Contact the writer: 714-796-7793 or twalker@ocregister.com

The Power of Music For Charity

2012 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN – Echarte Family Donate Their Time and Talent To Nonprofits

Life has played a nice song for Arturo Echarte and his family, and the Brevard entrepreneur wants to pay back his good fortune with music.

The founder of Acoustic for a Change, Echarte has harnessed the power of music to do good for local charities. The Indialantic guitarist and fellow musicians here and in California donate their time and talent to nonprofits to help them raise funds at special events. They also play for donations at weddings and other private functions in order to give all the income to worthy causes in Brevard.

The list of charities who sing Echarte’s musical praises is long, including Cancer Care Foundation, Candlighters of Brevard, Healthy Start Coalition, the National Kidney Foundation, the Women’s Center, Zonta Club, Club Esteem, Devereux, Brevard Rescue Mission, the Space Coast Early Intervention Center and even the Space Coast Symphony, for whom Echarte played Latin-themed tunes at the orchestra’s Viva la Musica fundraiser.

Approximately 200 musicians in Florida and California have joined Acoustic for a Change, pledging to help out nonprofits with music, the universal language. Part of Echarte’s music ministry also includes collecting gently used musical instruments to be given to underprivileged children who would not otherwise be able to play. Along with the instruments come music lessons. For example, the children of Melbourne’s Booker T. Washington neighborhood live in a world where poverty, crime and drugs are unfortunately all too familiar. Because of Echarte, however, these kids, who attend Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition’s DOCK after school program, have received musical instruments that help them explore a whole new world of opportunity and beauty.

The list of charities who sing Echarte’s musical praises is long, including Cancer Care Foundation, Candlighters of Brevard, Healthy Start Coalition, the National Kidney Foundation, the Women’s Center, Zonta Club, Club Esteem, Devereux, Brevard Rescue Mission, the Space Coast Early Intervention Center and even the Space Coast Symphony, for whom Echarte played Latin-themed tunes at the orchestra’s Viva la Musica fundraiser. ABOVE: Echarte with Cancer Care Foundation’s Marta Fiol, a 2011 Central Florida Humanitarian.

On most afternoons, the DOCK band, Electric Altitude, practices on instruments Echarte provided. On weekends, they “pay it forward” by playing at local events such as the recent “Rockin’ on Interlachen” concert that Hope Lutheran Church hosted to raise funds for the local food pantry. Arturo Echarte’s strong faith in God led him to Acoustic for a Change. “This is the purpose God has given me to do good,” he said.

“Arturo uses the power of music to do so much good,” said Lynn Brockwell-Carey, executive director of the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition, the United Way member agency that revitalizes impoverished communities in South Brevard. “He shares his considerable talents and inspires others to do the same.”

Echarte’s wife, Susan, who helped him grow his high-speed – and highly successful – mailing and digital printing service in South Florida, has joined him in his music ministry. Her forte is organization, honed in the travel department of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Susan Echarte donates her business acumen to nonprofits planning fundraisers in order that they can maximize funds and resources to help their mission.

Arturo Echarte playing for Space Coast Cancer Center’s Daffodil Gala at Kennedy Space Center.

With Susan’s help, the National Kidney Foundation hosted a highly successful “Gidget” evening featuring Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman, the original inspiration for the quintessential girl surfer of movie and television fame.

The Cuban-American Echarte had a bumpy start in life. In the late 60s, Echarte’s family left all their worldly goods in Cuba and fled the Communist regime with their four boys, plus a baby soon to arrive. Arturo is the only one of the five Echarte sons to have been born in the United States.

The founder of Acoustic for a Change, Echarte has harnessed the power of music to do good for local charities. The Indialantic, Florida guitarist and fellow musicians here and in California donate their time and talent to nonprofits to help them raise funds at special events.

Although the family initially settled in Miami, Echarte’s dad found work in Cocoa Beach, where his skills as an MIT-trained builder came in handy during the building boom spurred by the growth of the Kennedy Space Center. The family eventually returned to South Florida, but Arturo’s heart stayed in Brevard, eventually relocating his wife and two daughters to Indialantic.

Success was not instant with his Postal Center International business, but years of hard work in the business he launched at age 24 eventually paid off. Echarte can now Skype daily to his company president and visit headquarters a few days a month, allowing him to pursue his music ministry in Brevard and in Southern California, home for the Echartes for a few months out of the year. Echarte’s strong faith in God led him to Acoustic for a Change. “This is the purpose God has given me to do good,” he said.

Article by Maria Sonnenberg in Space Coast Medicine

Couple sparks change with music, marketing

Arturo and Susan

Arturo and Susan Echarte believe in giving back. As the founders of Acoustic for a Change, they help nonprofit organizations raise money by providing musicians, event planning and marketing assistance. For Mr. Echarte, the chance to give back is the culmination of a family odyssey that began in Cuba more than five decades ago. “My family left in the late 1960s,” he said. “My four older brothers were born in Cuba, and I was born three months after they arrived. I was the only one born here. My dad was a builder and property developer. He left all of that. My father started anew at 42. I have a lot of respect for that.” The family settled in Miami, but the space boom brought them to Cocoa Beach, where Mr. Echarte began school.

When the space program dwindled, the family moved to Fort Lauderdale, where Mr. Echarte was raised and attended high school. His father had a business there, and Mr. Echarte worked for his dad in the summer. He also attended Florida Atlantic University, majoring in psychology. “I wanted to get into counseling,” he said. “My grades were average and not good enough for a master’s program.” Mr. Echarte had a cousin in Puerto Rico who was running a mailing business. The idea interested Mr. Echarte.

“I started doing courier work and mail processing,” he said. “The business, Postal Center International, grew from scratch. Sue and I worked the business together for 28 years and eventually we burned out. We had to decide if we would sell it or have someone run it. It was a great decision to have someone else run it. I don’t have to work day-to-day.” In addition to the Fort Lauderdale operation, PCI had a plant in Orlando. The Echartes kept a second home in Indialantic. The couple began to spend more time in Brevard County, an area Mr. Echarte remembered fondly from his childhood.

As they stepped away from work, the couple began looking for ways to give back to the community. Mr. Echarte played the guitar in college, had more time for music; and the couple began Acoustic for a Change, which they consider a ministry. “The reason we call it a ministry is that our goal is to support charities and fundraising events, so they run smoothly,” he said. “It’s a way for them to have quality live music, whether by me or others. My wife is a wonderful event planner and she gives advice on planning details. Our company helps them market, using social marketing (tools), such as Constant Contact and email blasts. We try to support events, so they reach the next level. We’re helping them take that event from raising $5,000 to $20,000.”

Acoustic for a Change has assisted groups that include the Space Coast Symphony, Healthy Start Coalition, The Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition, the Brevard Rescue Mission and the National Kidney Foundation. For the latter event, Susan Echarte brought Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman, the original “Gidget,” to Brevard for a showing of a film about the 1960s icon. When Acoustic for a Change does an event, its staff only asks that the organization publicize its instrument donation program. That program takes donations of gently used instruments and donates them to children, whose families could not afford them. In addition to guitars, Mr. Echarte is looking for accordions, violins, flutes, trumpets, saxophones, keyboards and drums. The program has donated instruments to Melbourne’s Club Esteem music mentoring program and the Brevard Youth Symphony Orchestra, as well as to organizations in Cuba.

For the Echartes, the decision to help nonprofit groups raise money is an act of faith. “Sue and I are Christians,” he said. “We believe God has given us gifts to give back to the world.” For more information about Acoustics for a Change or to donate a gently used instrument, visit the new website www.acousticforachange.com, visit them on Facebook or send an email to pcisurfer@aol.com.

Article by By Shelley Koppel in Hometown News.

Arturo Echarte changes lives through his acoustic music

Music, the universal language, speaks when words fail, as Hans Christian Andersen wisely put it. Indialantic guitarist Arturo Echarte’s music speaks of kindness and of a sense of community. The founder of Acoustics for a Change, Echarte channels music for the good of others. His music ministry supports local charities by connecting them with musicians, Echarte included, willing to donate their time to play at fundraisers. Echarte also collects gently used musical instruments to give to young musicians who cannot afford to buy the equipment. Additionally, Acoustics for a Change musicians play for a donation fee at private parties, weddings and gallery openings, again, to raise money to give to local nonprofits. “It’s a win-win for all,” said Lynn Brockwell-Carey, executive director of the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition. More

 

Indialantic musician tunes up for charity

Arturo Echarte of Indialantic is using his musical talent for higher purposes. The organization he founded, Acoustic for a Change, plays for free at qualified charity and fundraising events and donates to charity the fees for playing at private parties, weddings, socials, cocktail and dinner parties and corporate events.

“The whole thing is Christian-based. I’ve played in a lot of church bands but I fell in love with a more mellow, solo-finger picking kind of thing,” he said. Originally from South Florida, Echarte has been in Brevard County about 15 years. Echarte’s charity work is enabled by his long-successful mailing business called Postal Center International, founded in Fort Lauderdale.

“God has blessed us, and I like to give back rather than charge for playing. I don’t mind being background music. I love creating an ambience for people to enjoy,” he said. Sales of his personal CD “Acoustic Survivor” also result in proceeds to be donated to charity, he said. The response has been so good that he has branched out to also include other musicians. Among the organizations that have benefited from Acoustic for a Change are the Space Coast Cancer Center and the Space Coast Early Intervention Center.

“If it’s a qualified charity, we play free of charge. If not, or if it’s a private party, we charge fees and donate the money to charity,” he said. And finally, Echarte collects unwanted instruments of all kinds to be donated to kids from lower income families. So far, he has a donated trumpet, autoharp and clarinet. “I’ve gotten a huge response so far but a lot of people don’t know we’re out here. The key is getting the word out,” he said.

For bookings or more information, contact Arturo Echarte at pcisurfer@aol.com or on Facebook.