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"Ear Candy"
A Unique Arizona Charity

By Dave Cooper

Ear Candy founder, Nate Anderson

To have an "ear" is defined as having "sensitivity to musical tone and pitch that is pleasing." And "candy" is described as "something that is pleasant, appealing, sweet, auditory and gratifying." These are the essential qualities that define the Arizona charity called Ear Candy. Where does this original idea and success story begin? With Nate Anderson. An Arizona dreamer and visionary, Anderson is the very definition of a progressive social entrepreneur, and Arizona is proud to claim him.

In early 2007, Anderson came across a startling statistic: Arizona is dead last in per person educational funding in the country. As a music enthusiast, Anderson began to research the effects of such dismal funding levels on music education in Arizona’s public schools. What Anderson discovered inspired him to change his life, and the lives of many young people. Anderson's insatiable desire to make a real difference in the lives of Valley of the Sun youth is the driving wheel behind this philanthropic endeavor.

Ear Candy is a Valley-based organization. The non-profit's mission is to provide youth the access to music education through five primary vehicles: Instrument Drives®, Backstage Class®, music field trips, traditional music programming and music therapy. “The whole idea of Ear Candy is to make it fun for kids; playful and engaging. We want to give them an outlet to learn about music." Anderson explained. Genuinely exuberant and devoted to his mission, Anderson sees every single day as an opportunity to help young people in Arizona receive the gift of music.

Anderson and Ear Candy have been very busy. In just the past few years, Ear Candy programs have impacted well over 10,000 young people in the Phoenix area. Their goal of reaching 20,000 is now in clear sight. Exploring other markets is being considered. “We all have our obligations as people to help and serve each other,” Anderson enthused; “It’s fun! And it’s authentically me.” With equal verve, he says, “I give the best I can, which happens [to be that] I can fortunately help thousands of kids.”

Anderson is an ardent fan and participant of music-related activity, yet he is not a musician. “I don’t play a musical instrument -- kind of funny, huh?" he remarked. "Instead of focusing on being a better player, I concentrate on ways to help others improve, using my entrepreneurial skills and capabilities. It’s very gratifying.”

He is the recipient of numerous awards and nominations. The Phoenix New Times deemed Anderson Best Salesperson for a Good Cause in 2009. In addition, 2009 brought him The Pyro Award, which salutes inspiring agents of positive change in the community. 2010 brought more accolades for Anderson when he was recognized in the Business Journal’s "40 under 40", became a Hon Kachina Honoree, and was an official nominee for the individual Governor’s Art Award.

A gifted impresario, Anderson doesn’t do all this alone. With the support from an impressive Governing Board, Ear Candy has developed a solid foundation and business model for enduring success. Ear Candy is dedicated to providing every child access to music education and these individuals are committed to perpetuating the organization’s growth and fulfilling its mission.

Effectively complementing the Ear Candy Board of Directors is a highly capable, enthusiastic group known as Team Ear Candy. These frontline soldiers eagerly approach each day for the sake of altruism, community, and empowerment. They also love the end result: fulfilling a young person’s dream of playing music.

Because of impact the organization has had in the Valley, Anderson and Ear Candy receive tremendous support from the community. "Arizona State University has provided a wonderful partnership, donating office space and other resources. They are a great liaison for musical outreach into the community,” Anderson explained.

In September of 2010, Ear Candy celebrated the grand opening of the Community Music and Wellness Center, located in the ASU Community Services Building. Thanks to the ASU Music Therapy Clinic, Ear Candy has a nice office space, a conference room, a Rock Band Room, and a Remo Drum Room.

Ear Candy needs and wants your support. If you would like to donate an instrument, simply drop it off at any Valley fire station. For larger items such as pianos, drum sets, and PA's, Ear Candy can make special arrangements for pickup. “If you want a really great experience, become an Ear Candy roadie, go out and actually collect or deliver instruments to these kids,” Anderson enthused.

Many other Valley-based organizations have collaborated with Ear Candy. As part of the 2011 McDowell Mountain Music Festival April 29 through May 1, Ear Candy will receive a portion of the festival proceeds.

There's a lot more to learn about Ear Candy. Find out how to contribute and discover the wondrous community that lies within this fine organization at