Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee
Press Release

Music matters to local volunteer

Tony Lucas serves as a mentor to young string players

By - Oct 28th, 2016 11:54 am
Tony Lucas with a “Tony Lucas Award” winner and family. MYSO established an award in honor of Tony’s service to the program. Photo courtesy of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.

Tony Lucas with a “Tony Lucas Award” winner and family. MYSO established an award in honor of Tony’s service to the program. Photo courtesy of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?

A desire to support young students in developing their musical talents.

Describe the organization where you volunteer and the work they do.

I volunteer with Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Progressions which is the cornerstone of MYSO’s Community Partnerships Programs, designed to diversify MYSO’s members, music and audiences. Progressions is a two-year, string training program for underserved third and fourth grade students who live or attend school in the City of Milwaukee. Many students come from schools without formal music programs or financial access to music study. Students are nominated by their classroom teachers based on their musical aptitude and family support.

What do you do when you volunteer, what kind of help do you provide?

Serving as a mentor to the young string players, I work with those students who are struggling, practicing with them one-on-one as they build their confidence and technique. The orchestra rehearses two days a week for two hours each day.

Many of the students come from challenging environments. I connect with parents, offer a listening ear to whatever difficulties they may be experiencing and try to educate the parents on the benefits of music for their child. For example, if transportation is an issue, I work with the parents to discuss the alternatives rather than removing their child from the program. Sometimes I find myself playing the roles of teacher, mentor and social worker.

How long have you volunteered there?

I’ve been with MYSO around 24 years, with Progressions for 12 years.

What surprised you the most about volunteering?

Sometimes, Progressions is the only positive outlet these children have. To see results that a few hours can render is amazing!

When you think about your paid jobs, how is a volunteering different or the same?

It’s completely different. I work full time as Manager of Operations at WTMJ. Working with families in association with the arts sets it apart.

What new things have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?

An appreciation of music and its use a tool in a child’s education. It’s very motivating to see the musicians grow from beginners into young adults, expressing their individuality through music. Some former students still play music while others have gone in other directions, but they all have an appreciation for the arts.

Has it changed your view of the world in any way?

I’ve gained a very positive view of the commitment that parents demonstrate in their children’s education, even when dealing with tough and challenging circumstances.

Tony working with Progressions students in a rehearsal. Photo courtesy of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.

Tony working with Progressions students in a rehearsal. Photo courtesy of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.

Has it changed your view of this community in any way?

I feel that community-supported MYSO programs are a fantastic example of what our overall community can accomplish. This program is reaching youth with various economic and cultural backgrounds who might not otherwise been exposed to the arts in this way.

Prior to 2003, the membership of African American and Latino musicians was less than 5%. Today those numbers are 30% including Bi-racial, Hmong and Native Americans.

Has volunteering helped you, has it had benefits for you?

Since I am a part of the community I live in, any contribution on my part enhances my life as well.

What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer?

The follow up with families and students, sharing their accomplishments and knowing that my involvement has been productive.

Would you recommend volunteering to others?

Yes, absolutely!

If so, what would you tell them is the benefit they’d get from volunteering?

I would convey the aspect of volunteerism as venture of self-investment.

How would you suggest someone begin if they want to volunteer?

Identify one’s own passions, and look for avenues to share this aspect to the benefit of others.

To learn more about Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, go to To learn about the Progressions program, contact Bernard Rahming at 414-267-2949 or To volunteer with MYSO, go to

The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee is a membership association serving over 500 nonprofit and corporate members and the nonprofit sector at large. The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee promotes the interests and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector through strengthening organizational capacity, expanding volunteerism and encouraging collaborations. Its programs include training and consulting, Volunteer Milwaukee, financial management, and Jobs that Serve. For more information visit

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