This year we were fortunate to come into contact with Guitars Over Guns, a nonprofit organization empowering young people in Chicago—as well as Miami and Los Angeles—with music education and mentorship from music industry professionals.
Naturally, we’re inspired by their mission of nurturing creative and artistic expression in this city’s young minds. And with Guitars Over Guns’ Chicago contingent holding some of their important in-person staff meetings here, we like to think our Catalyst Ranch aura is enriched by the presence of these talented musicians doing great work.
We chatted with Andrew DeMuro from their leadership team and got to know more about the organization and what brings them to our space.
Please tell us more about yourself and Guitars Over Guns.
My name is Andrew DeMuro, and Guitars Over Guns is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides young people with a powerful combination of music education and mentoring relationships with professional musicians in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. In Chicago, we train our team of 30 artists in social emotional learning techniques, placing them in schools as far West as Hermosa and as far South as Altgeld Gardens. We help kids find their voice, pick up an instrument, and choose a unique ‘sound’ that leads to their full potential.
As of October 1st, I’ve taken on the new, national role of Director of Program Quality. From 2016 to 2022, I served as the organization’s first Regional Director for Chicago, where I am still based. I have a background that includes years of teaching and instructional coaching in Chicago Public Schools, as well as over a decade of experience as a singer and songwriter with my band, The Shades.
How did you come to find Catalyst Ranch?
Like many local performing acts, we became familiar with Catalyst Ranch through their partnership with Sofar Sounds. A few of our teaching artists had played or attended a show at CR, always leaving with the impression that it was a uniquely creative space. When our typical space for hosting in-person quarterly mentor meetings fell through, I reached out, and within days we were set up in the Mambo Room—we’ve hosted our meetings here ever since!
Why is a space like this impactful for Guitars Over Guns?
As creatives, our teaching artists have high expectations for what productive meeting spaces should look, sound, and feel like. We love that the rooms at Catalyst Ranch are fully equipped to meet all audio and visual needs; the staff continually keeps us fueled with coffee, tea, snacks, and a catered lunch that meets every diet; and because we are a nonprofit, we appreciate that they’ve accommodated our specific budget needs—a breath of fresh air in a world where we too often have to sacrifice quality to survive. We can’t thank the Catalyst Ranch staff enough for how professional, punctual, and highly responsive they are—we absolutely love the space!
What lies ahead for the organization?
In 2017, we launched our first Peer Mentoring program for Guitars Over Guns alumni seeking greater ownership of our organization. Four years later, we were honored to hire our first program alumnus as a mentor in the same middle school program she graduated from. In five years, we hope to make good on our goals for program expansion, deepening our impact on the city’s South, West, and Southwest sides, and significantly grow the number of students in paid leadership positions on our staff.
We’re very inspired by what Guitars Over Guns has accomplished so far. Keep up the great work, and thanks for your time, Andrew!