Cuts in school funding and a realignment of priorities in recent years have resulted in fewer music education opportunities for children. Studies show that involvement in the arts increases students' participation in other school-related activities.

Local musician and professional photographer George Howard recognized this trend and noticed that young people were losing the culture and heritage of music. So he decided to do something about it.

In 2007, Howard started the Tucson Musicians Museum, a non-profit organization that honors the achievements of local musicians and gives underserved kids a chance to grow musically by pairing them with mentors.

"It's important for the future of music for kids," said Howard. "The passion shouldn't be lost. We're trying to preserve what we've got and continue a standard of excellence."

The older musicians are teaching the youngsters more than just instrumental skills; they're offering advice on the business end of music, with tips on marketing, forming a band, recording a CD and tax considerations. Sharing the history of their instrument and music in general is also part of the education process.

Funds to compensate the mentoring musicians come from donations, grants, auctions and the annual fundraiser, which will be held this year at JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, 2-5 p.m. this Sunday, Sept. 12. The resort is located at 3800 West Starr Pass Boulevard.

The fourth annual Celebration of Music & Culture will include food, a cash bar, auctions, raffle, the 2010 museum induction ceremony and a multi-genre showcase of live entertainment by local musicians.

While the Tucson Musicians Museum does not have a physical home, its online site includes photographs of the inductees, donated by Howard, and information about the musicians and their contributions to our community.

"It's great because you can see the history of the people we have here in town," said Howard, who plans to eventually add entertainment listings, musician and venue links and mp3 capabilities.

Tickets, which are $40 each, can be purchased at The Chicago Store, 130 East Congress Street; 17th Street Market, 840 East 17th Street; or at

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