First Person Singular: John Whelan ’11 puts music in reach of low-income youth

I’ve started a nonprofit organization, Wolf Industries, which is devoted to putting musical instruments in the hands of low-income youth and teaching them how to play. The inspiration for the organization actually came from the combination of my Plan, which covered the industrial development of musical instrument manufacturing, and the Certificate in Non-Profit Management offered at Marlboro College Graduate School. I must also give fair credit to my incredibly skilled board of directors, including Marlboro senior Max Cliggott-Perlt, our treasurer and mathematician.

First of all, I am establishing a connection to potential constituents by volunteering my time as a mentor at a local outreach program called just-a-start. Second, I have been developing a professional network of music students at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory. I have been corresponding with the presidents of both of these institutions to establish an internship program between my organization and their music education students. The idea there is to give those students some practical experience in their field in exchange for professional references and college credit. The third piece will be to contact musical instrument retailers and producers about supplying us with instruments.

In the mean time, to pay the bills, I have taken a job with Laura Fisher & Associates, a subsidiary of American Income Life Insurance Company, which is proving to be a spectacular opportunity with plenty of growth potential. Laura Fisher & Associates works directly with labor union members, and as a licensed agent I carry the stamp of approval and support from a variety of unions. The largest union we work with is the International Union of Police Associations.

With high revenue sales like this the most important thing is energy, so I am keeping all my efforts toward a positive outlook. My favorite part about the job, as trite as it may be, is the money. There is of course a fair amount of speculative risk since I am not paid hourly or salary, but rather as an independent contractor. However, as a Marlboro alumnus I have little difficulty working independently. Commissions and bonuses add up quickly, so long as I’m maintaining a healthy level of tenacity.

My juggling act between LF&A and Wolf Industries has little to do with being sensible. But as a student of the esteemed Jim Tober, I learned reliable modes of time management and dedication. Having written a Plan of Concentration, I realize that I am the only thing that can stand in my way. For instance, I have taken on a hobby of filing taxes for a few friends. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the IRS website had all the information anyone would need. Of the many things you think you learn at Marlboro, the one that should never be neglected is learning how to learn.

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