‘Tunes for Texas’ combines passion with service

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By Avery Hansen

In the fall of 2013, two first-year SMU students wanted to find a way to continue playing music in college while also being involved in the Dallas community. Vafa Behzadpour and Dylan Erwin gathered a group of their friends who were interested in being a part of a musical service club and created Tunes for Texas.

The club held its first event, a clothing drive, on SMU’s Boulevard where Tunes for Texas collected 20 garage bins full of clothing donations. After the event, the club received its first official charter in the spring of 2013.

“We love the opportunity we have had of getting to work with those in need and share our love of music,” Erwin said.

Last year, Tunes for Texas had around 10 members, but this year the group has grown to almost 40. As the club gains recognition, it continues to grow in both members and instruments. Tunes for Texas now includes pianists, violinists, saxophonists, guitarists, cellists, percussionists and singers.

“I started playing piano in the first grade and entered competitions every year until I graduated high school,” sophomore and Tunes of Texas President Courtney McKinney said. “In junior high, I discovered how I could use piano to bring others joy. After that, I looked for more opportunities to volunteer with music.”

McKinney said that while she craved the rush and intensity of competition, she loved the feeling of entertaining an audience more. She discovered how she could combine her piano skills and passion for service after a she completed a mission trip in junior high.

“On a mission trip where we were painting a woman’s house, one of our main goals was to spend time with her and just listen to her stories, because she spent most of her time shut in the house,” McKinney said. “She had a piano, so we ended up talking about piano and playing together for hours.”

McKinney said that she she has always had a heart for service and has tried to get involved wherever she can. The group holds a strong belief that one’s passion should be used to help others. This belief goes into each event they plan.

“Every event we do is different,” Erwin said. “We try to make the club as flexible as possible, where sometimes we all play together and sometimes we try and allow small groups to do their own thing.”

In addition to playing at local schools and nursing homes, the philanthropic club hosts three annual events. This November, Tunes for Texas took a group to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital to play fun, kid-friendly music and teach the children a music lesson.

Tunes for Texas gets ready to perform at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. Photo credit: Tunes for Texas

“We also host a Christmas caroling event,” McKinney said. “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! We take Buddy the Elf’s advice and spread some cheer to elementary and middle schools in Dallas.”

McKinney said her favorite Tunes for Texas event was when the group visited Edward C. Cary Middle School to sing Christmas carols in the school cafeteria last year.

“I was worried that the kids would think we were lame because by middle school, kids usually reach that ‘too cool for school’ age, but instead they loved it,” McKinney said. “They joined in, shouted out song requests and even the cafeteria workers got involved.”

In the future, Tunes for Texas hopes to be a place for students who love music, in and out of Meadows, to work together to make a difference.

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