Heart Strings

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Aaron Kaufman uses music to heal — and to help at-risk kids find their voices

Tana Helene
aaronkaufman004_hirescmyk
aaronkaufman004_hirescmyk

Despite being the son of two artists and the winner of a NPR songwriting award and a BMI John Lennon scholarship, singer-songwriter Aaron Kaufman worked briefly as an analyst for Target in Minnesota after graduating from Carleton College. And at another point he was “determined” to find a teaching job in China, but a Houston nonprofit had other plans for the self-taught guitarist, whose voice has been compared to Justin Timberlake’s and who cites influences from Bon Iver to ’90s R&B.


“My mom read a New York Times article about a nonprofit down here called Purple Songs Can Fly,” he remembers. The Connecticut native applied for an internship and ventured southward in 2008 to take the unpaid summer gig, which involved writing and recording songs with young patients (and their siblings) at Texas Children’s and sending them home with a CD at the end of their hospital visit.

When he returned to Minnesota, he missed the work. Serendipitously, Purple Songs Can Fly asked Kaufman back to Houston. One thing led to another, and he connected with Music Doing Good, a nonprofit that provides music education outside of school settings. The 6-year-old org named him media producer in 2012.

Kaufman wears a lot of hats, from working with the marketing team to audio-visual work. “Nonprofit wasn’t necessarily what I thought I’d be doing, but it’s very powerful and rewarding to bring music opportunities to at-risk students in Houston schools,” he says.

In addition to doling out funds — 74 scholarships last year alone — and placing instruments in the hands of students who need them, Music Doing Good conducts ongoing outreach. One such effort is a year-long program in which kids from underserved neighborhoods study one genre of music and put on a musical at year’s end. “They help write the show and work with musicians, then they perform at the Hobby Center,” says Kaufman. “Kids who have no choir in school are standing on a premiere stage, and they pack the house!” Kaufman himself works in the studio, helping kids record songs and preparing for a bi-annual benefit concert to raise funds for the program.

And it’s not just about preparing kids for possible music careers, as many won’t choose that path. It goes deeper, and impacts all students. “Music education is essential to their thinking,” he says.

When he’s not collaborating with co-workers and students, the yogi is writing and pitching songs in Nashville, Los Angeles and New York. “I’m finishing up songs and mastering them at Sugar Hill Studios,” he says.

He plays about 40 shows a year, including private house concerts and the occasional yoga class. “My music has a flow to it that fits very well with yoga,” he says. “Intimate shows — just me and my acoustic guitar — are my favorite thing, like playing in patients’ hospital rooms. I don’t play an 8-year-old’s favorite music, but it helps develop a sense of intimacy and quiet.”

Wellness+Giving Back
Pelican Builders Welcome Residents To First New Upper Kirby Condo Offering In Years;
Boutique Midrise Adds To Pedestrian Appeal Of Sought-After, Inner Loop Neighborhood

WITH ITS INAUGURAL set of residents newly moved in, Pelican Builders’ mid-rise condominium Westmore at 2323 W Main Street in Upper Kirby is already seeing the blossoming of a tight-knit community. Designed by Houston-based Mirador Group the Westmore is the first new condominium product to be introduced to the in-demand, inner loop neighborhood in more than three years. And with remaining two-bedroom homes starting at $895,000, it’s a remarkable value for this increasingly pricey area, where condos can easily climb to several million dollars and more.

Keep ReadingShow less
Home + Real Estate

THIS WEEKEND MAY have been chilly, but one Friday-night bash brought the heat: Reagan and Alex Bregman welcomed a handful of VIPs to the launch party for their new southwest food brand, Wild Sol.

Keep ReadingShow less
Parties

The new Artisans is located at 5745 Westheimer Rd.

CELEBRATED MIDTOWN MAINSTAY Artisans has relocated to the Galleria area, occupying sophisticated new French-inspired digs on Westheimer.

Keep ReadingShow less
Food