An Interview with Michael Braunstein: The Les Paul Foundation

Nov 20, 2013 by

An Interview with Michael Braunstein: The Les Paul Foundation

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Michael, first of all , can you tell us about yourself and your experience and education.

I graduated from Boston University in 1984 and am a Certified Public Accountant, I followed my Dad and Grandfather into accounting and business management. Les was originally a friend and client of my grandfathers. I started to work with Les in 1990 when I joined the firm.

I have been a board member, treasurer and active in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – Long Island Chapter for about 15 years.

I have been a trustee of the Les Paul Foundation since it’s inception and have been the Executive Director since the Les Paul Foundation became active.

2) Now can you tell us about this Les Paul Foundation and when it got started.

We had a meeting with Les in 1995 to discuss updating his Will. Les was very interested in continuing to contribute upon his passing, and it was decided that by creating his foundation he could accomplish his wishes. While the foundation was created in 1995, it really got started and funded upon his passing in 2009.

The mission of the Les Paul Foundation is to honor and share the life, spirit, and legacy of Les Paul by supporting music education, engineering and innovation as well as medical research. The Les Paul Foundation is an approved IRC 501(c) 3 organization.

The Les Paul Foundation

Awards grants to music, music engineering and sound programs that serve youth.

Establishes music-related scholarships at schools and programs for students.

Provides grants for medical research and programs related to hearing impairment.

Supports public exhibits displaying Les Paul’s life achievements.

3) As a musician myself- I know Les Paul’s guitar work, and his music and his line of guitars- but can you provide a brief synopsis?

While Les is most well known by today’s generation for the solid body electric guitar, we argue that Les Paul was the most influential individual in the music industry. We base this on the following:

a) Les is credited with bringing the guitar from the back of the stage to becoming the star instrument front and center.

b) Les’ innovations and inventions include recording techniques, sound on sound machine, reverb, 8 Track recordings, etc.

c) Les is still considered one of the greatest guitar players ever and a great entertainer along with Mary Ford.

d) Les is the only individual in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Inventors Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame

e) The Les Paul influence, not just with the Jeff Beck’s, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney but with today’s artists John Mayer, Jack White, the Jonas Brothers, Billie Joe Armstrong and many more are unprecedented

f) Les would have been 100 in 2015

4) What was he trying to accomplish with this Foundation?

Les believed that music education should be part of every kids education, not because he thought everyone should be a musician, but because it helps students in every area of learning. Since the first thing cut in school budgets is the Arts, he wanted to bring music back into the schools. Research shows that music helps children in many ways and is not limited to the classroom.

5) Where are you located and what kinds of grants are you currently funding ? The Les Paul Foundation’s office is in NYC. Some of the recent grants were provided to:

Discovery World Museum (Milwaukee,WI) – Exhibit “Les Paul House of Sound”

Guitars for Vets (National)

Music Unites (NY & LA)

The Blues Foundation (Memphis,TN)

Little Kids Rock (National)

Ramapo College (Ramapo, NJ)

Grammy Foundation

TJ Martell Foundation

NAMM Foundation

Hearing Health Foundation

Hearing Education and Awareness

Waukesha Education Foundation

6) Tell us about a typical grant?

There are no typical grants, the foundation looks to partner with organizations that are successful in their missions. We follow up with our grant recipients to make sure the money is used for its intended purpose. And then we report on the successes.

7) Does the grant have to be musically oriented ?

No, in addition to music education , Les was very concerned about hearing issues so the foundation also makes grants to hearing medical research and awareness programs.

8) What have I neglected to ask ?

Les is a historic individual, he clearly left his mark. We are very excited to celebrate with the entire music industry Les’ 100th birthday (June 9,2015) year. He was a pioneer, an inventor, a musician, an actor and a humanitarian.

9) Do you have a web site where readers can get more information?

Visit www.lespaulfoundation.org, we also have a Les Paul Foundation Facebook page.

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