Daren Hightower is the visionary and founder of The Children’s Music Foundation, and the 2011 recipient of the Houston Mayor's Award for Remarkable Service to the City of Houston. Twenty years ago, Daren set out to make the world a better place one music lesson at a time. Today, we are proud to have two chapters of the Children's Music Foundation in Houston and Austin, enriching thousands of lives through music.
In his late twenties, Daren paid $20 for an old guitar. He fixed it up, took a few lessons, quit the lessons, then taught himself how to play. He immediately enjoyed the power of music and began teaching others how easy it is to learn a few chords. Igniting the music in others while teaching simple three and four-chord songs, Daren became inspired by the way music brought people together. It was a beautiful thing to experience all cultures, religions and backgrounds coming together through music. At the time, and for eighteen years, teaching, playing and asking those he taught to 'Pass it on' was enough.
In 2008, some of the children of the adults Daren was teaching began wanting to play music with their parents. Daren began giving lessons to children and youth. He immediately noticed positive connections and parents spoke of improved concentration, academic acceleration and happier dispositions in their children. Daren realized that learning and playing music was the positive cause in these children's changed behavior and he felt he had to do something. The idea for The Children's Music Foundation was born.
Growing up, Daren enjoyed listening to music, but his interests were mainly in athletics and he excelled in sports alongside his older brother. He spent a lot of his childhood overseas with his U.S. Navy family in Italy, Puerto Rico and Iceland. In middle school, the family relocated to Houston where Daren finished school prior to attending Sam Houston State University as a Business Management Major. As he supported himself to pay for college, Daren alternated time between being a student and serving our country. In his freshman year in college, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was on active duty for training as a Hospital Corpsman for almost a year before returning back to college and then serving in a U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Special Forces Unit. During Daren’s senior year in college, he made a bad decision, got mixed up with the wrong crowd, and made a mistake that would change his life forever. He was involved in a drug deal that resulted in Daren going to prison for 20 months. He was 23 years old.
While in prison, Daren became introspective and made a 'bucket list'. At the top of that list was learning to play guitar. He also wanted to use his life’s experiences to reach out in positive ways to others. Grateful for a second chance and ready to turn his life around, Daren began working hard to build a successful career. And, with his newfound perspective on life, he kept the promises he made to himself; taught himself to play guitar and used music to inspire others.
After many years of an enthusiastic grass roots effort with family, friends and volunteers working with him to build the Children's Music Foundation, Daren now enjoys a dedicated Board of Directors who help fulfil the mission 'Enriching the lives of children and building communities with music, music instruction'.