Music Will — Largest Non-Profit Music Program in US Public Schools — Names New CEO Mike Wasserman

Weds., January 10th 2024 — Music Will, the acclaimed non-profit organization transforming young lives through multi-genre music programs, today announced the appointment of Mike Wasserman to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) beginning January 16th, 2024. Wasserman’s multi-decade experience working in education focused on nonprofits is an invaluable fresh asset to the Music Will team. Currently the Vice President for Growth and Development at the Constructive Dialog Institute, an organization that helps students and adults learn to engage more productively across differences, Wasserman also previously held roles including Executive Director of the Boston Debate League, and Executive Director at Bottom Line.

“When I launched Music Will twenty-two years ago, I dreamed of bringing the gift of music to a million kids,” says Music Will founder and inaugural CEO, Dave Wish. “We’ve hit that milestone and our dreams are even bigger today. The Board and I searched long and hard for the right leader to pass the CEO torch to. We are overjoyed to have found the perfect successor in Mike Wasserman and I look forward to supporting him in my role as the organization’s Chief Visionary Officer.”

In his new role, Wasserman will lead the organization, including through its next 5-year strategic plan, with a priority on exponentially scaling its mission to reach more students directly through its unique pedagogy and programming, both of which help enable students to become lifelong music makers.

Of the appointment, Mike Wasserman said,

“I am honored and excited to be joining Music Will as the organization’s next CEO. Music has played such a transformational role in my life – as a shy and reserved child, my school’s music program gave me a place where I could build my confidence, strengthen my voice, and connect deeply with friends and family. To this day, my closest friends are the people that have come into my life through our shared love of music.

In every conversation I’ve had with members of the Music Will community, that same passion for music feels so present – it’s energizing and inspiring. And I love that at the heart of this organization is a commitment to centering the talents and passions of students and the dedication and brilliance of educators.

I hope to partner with our staff, board, and Music Will community to help teachers transform the way their students experience music education in every community across the country.”

About Mike Wasserman

Mike Wasserman has spent his career supporting non-profit organizations through moments of significant growth, change, and reinvention. From an early age, Mike has been passionate about educational and life experiences for young people where they can affirm and strengthen their voice, leadership skills, self-identity, and agency. During high school and college, that showed up in Mike’s various roles as a tutor, youth musical theater producer, after school program leader, debate coach, music and theater camp counselor, and more. In his professional career, Mike has led education non-profits working closely with K-12 and higher ed systems to provide transformational educational and life experiences for students, especially students who have been marginalized, silenced, or ignored in traditional educational settings.

Mike spent a decade at Bottom Line in various leadership roles helping first-generation students in their journey to and through college. Mike’s leadership journey at Bottom Line culminated in nearly 5 years as the Executive Director of the flagship, Bottom Line-Massachusetts. In his time at Bottom Line, Mike helped the organization codify their programs, grow their budget and impact more than 10x, and develop a culture rooted in transparency, respect, and equity that led to dramatic increases in staff retention, satisfaction, and performance. Following his time at Bottom Line, Mike served as the Executive Director of the Boston Debate League where he similarly led the organization through an equity-centered culture transformation, established clear financial and operational policies, raised record funds that put the organization in its strongest financial position in history, and guided the organization through a strategic planning process to codify programs and set a clear vision for growth and scale. Mike is currently serving as the Vice President for Growth and Development at the Constructive Dialogue Institute, an organization helping students and adults learn how to engage more productively across differences. At CDI, he has acted as a strategic partner to the Founder and Executive Director through a visioning and strategic planning process, led the organization to record fundraising success, and developed a program model for scaling impact dramatically through institutional and coalition-based partnerships with hundreds of college campuses and youth-serving organizations across the country.

In addition to his full-time leadership roles, Mike has served in advisory and board roles at education nonprofits, including the Boston Debate League and Thrive Scholars. Mike also spent 5 years as a senior fellow at the Institute for Nonprofit Practice where he facilitated and coached a cohort of rising nonprofit leaders each year, helping them navigate their leadership challenges and develop a leadership identity.
Mike holds a BA in Public Policy and Urban Education from Brown University and an MBA in Nonprofit Management from Boston University. He credits music, theater, and debate as the transformational experiences in his own life that still impact the way he experiences the world today. Mike lives in Baltimore with his wife Kathleen and their dog Midnight.

About Music Will

Music Will runs the largest nonprofit music program in the U.S. public school system. Its teachers currently serve over 600,000 students in more than 600 cities and towns across the country. They believe that music education is a right, not a privilege, and it should reflect the cultures of the students it serves. That’s why, for two decades now, their programs have taught students such popular American genres as rock, pop, R&B, Latin, rap and country—alongside styles already taught in schools, such as classical and jazz. Today, a national network of K-12 districts has adopted the Music Will program as their own. Additionally, more than 70 colleges and universities now use their approach to music education majors. Several state departments of education have partnered with Music Will to grow music education in the schools they serve. Its mission of transforming lives by transforming music education has grown into a movement.

Music Will began as an informal effort by former Palo Alto school teacher, Dave Wish, who was frustrated by the lack of music programming in his school. Borrowing from friends and scouring area flea markets for instruments, he began offering free guitar classes after school using the popular music the students wanted to play. Many school teachers in Dave’s area were inspired by his program’s incredible impact, so he began offering training to help them start their own music classes. He is the progenitor of the organization’s unique pedagogy, “Music as a Second Language.” He also coined the term “modern band” as a descriptor for school music programs that offer popular music instruction, later publishing Modern Band Method textbooks with Hal Leonard. Dave left the classroom in 2002 to found “Little Kids Rock,” the nonprofit that was rebranded as Music Will in 2022. In 2023, Dave took on the new role of Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, focusing on strategy and organizational evangelism.

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