Guitar Gifts Are Life-Changing for Kids


Employees of Mundt Music, Longview, are credited with being key supporters for the Chinn Guitar Project from the start, says Ken Chinn (far right).

Ken Chinn of Longview personifies the definition of a real “guitar hero.”

In three years, Chinn has given away 500 guitars to a range of kids—some with health challenges, some with musical interest but no means to pursue it, and some simply needing a creative pastime. 

The idea for his nonprofit organization, Chinn Guitar Project, began when his daughter Tara, then age 15, was being treated for epilepsy at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Her visit to a musical therapist there so impressed him that he offered the program a gift of 10 guitars.

Chinn, a financial advisor, spends some of his free time playing a 12-string guitar and is a regular supporter of the arts. That initial gift of 10 guitars was as rewarding for the hospital as it was for Chinn, so he kept his eyes and ears open for other needs. The requests started coming in on a regular basis. 

First, his extended family was the sole funding source while music stores and guitar manufacturers gave him at-cost prices. About 60 guitars have come from his No. 1 supplier, Mundt Music in Longview. Over time, and with the start of the nonprofit, the funding has come from other benevolent sources.

The types of gifts have also changed. Not just 12-string guitars, but 6-string, electric, and classical guitars are also rounded up and delivered to the recipients. Many are one-half or three-quarter size ideal for youth.

Chinn said the guitars go far beyond Texas now that word has spread. He has sent guitars to half the states in the U.S. 

“We’re excited about helping the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine in New York,” said Chinn. “We just sent them six classical guitars; they’re on the cutting edge of music therapy.”

Chinn has also donated guitars locally: Kilgore High School; the Boys & Girls Club of Gregg County; Austin Elementary and Bonner Elementary in Tyler; and public and private schools in Longview including St. Mary’s Catholic, Crisman, Johnson-McQueen, and Spring Hill.

His organization also gives tuners, instruction books, and picks and even lines up visits by music teachers. 

What does receiving a guitar mean to these kids? It’s “life-changing” for them, said Chinn. 

For his part, the “guitar hero” has also gotten his rewards. He helps kids explore the world of music, and he works with his daughter who also helps fulfill the mission.

Chinn received a coveted “Advisers with Heart” award in 2015, a national recognition sponsored by REP magazine to celebrate humanitarian acts performed by members of the financial advisors’ profession.

Donations of time or money are welcome. Mail or deliver donations to Chinn Guitar Project, 404 Lakewood Drive, Longview, Texas 75604. All gifts are used exclusively for purchasing guitars for recipients. 

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