Saginaw, Mich., is one of those places where economic recovery has been slow to arrive. The city has been hit hard over the years by factory shutdowns. Unemployment is high. And people have left, by the thousands.
Now, residents John and Katrina Vowell are trying to help turn things around — with music.
The couple says they love Saginaw, despite its many problems, which include high poverty, drugs and drive-by shootings.
So when the Vowells were trying to turn their own lives around a few years ago, they decided to start a program called Major Chords for Minors. It provides free private music lessons — and instruments — to kids who can’t afford them. That’s a lot of people in Saginaw, where the poverty rate is more than 37 percent.
Major Chords for Minors has almost 130 students so far, and a long wait list.
Still, it’s a shoestring operation. The Vowells started the program using their meager savings and help from friends. Now they rely on grants and donations. Instructors, who teach drum, guitar and piano, get paid only $10 a lesson.
Classes are held in an old public elementary school, which was shut down for years due to lack of enrollment.
On July 1, Milton Hall (shown above) was shot at more than 40 times and killed by Saginaw, Mich. police. Officers say Hall, 49, who was homeless at the time of his death, pulled out a knife and was acting aggressively before he was shot. Michigan State Police are in the midst of investigating the incident, which was the third police-related shooting in the city this year. Meanwhile, a number of groups — including the Saginaw chapter of the NAACP — are asking for due process as investigators look for answers. "The concerned citizens of Saginaw are demanding a full and transparent investigation,“ said Gary L. Loster, a former Saginaw mayor and leader of the Concerned Citizens of Saginaw group. "We are calling for a report as to the progress and status.” (photo via WNEM)