NBC Helps Viacom Unit Save Music Education


VH1 parent company Viacom Inc. may have completed its purchase of CBS Corp., but that hasn't stopped the music network from building on its relationship with rival broadcaster NBC.

All this week, NBC's Today show plays host to VH1's pet "Save the Music" campaign, asking viewers to come to Today's Rockefeller Center studio in New York to donate old musical instruments.

To help draw support for the instrument drive, Today and VH1 invited such well-known performers as The Goo Goo Dolls, Bon Jovi and A.J. McLean of Backstreet Boys.

The weeklong drive will culminate Friday with appearances by Billy Joel and President Clinton at a live remote from New York City's Public School 96, an elementary school in Harlem. Clinton is scheduled to make the largest donation yet to a single community in the three-year-old Save the Music program. The specific amount will be disclosed Friday.

Since VH1 began the donation drive in 1997, more than $6 million worth of instruments have been given to public schools, and 350 music-education programs have been restored in 30 U.S. cities.

VH1 first partnered with Today last year. "This year, it's a much bigger campaign," vice president of public affairs Bob Morrison said. "Not only will we be collecting instruments in Rockefeller Center, but also in about one-dozen different markets with our affiliates."

One-day drives will be customized to local markets, Morrison said. In Milwaukee, Time Warner Cable customers will be asked to bring instruments to the operator's customer-service center. In some cases, NBC broadcast affiliates will host the local drive.

And across the country, retailer Borders Group Inc. will lend its 300 stores as drop-off points for musical instruments this week.

VH1 and affiliates will do more than just the weeklong drive to support Save the Music. Affiliates will run cross-channel public-service announcements and help VH1 to conduct applications screenings and site inspections for schools that want to benefit from the instrument drives.

To get refurbished instruments from VH1, schools must hire music-education teachers and make music education part of the school-day curriculum, and not just an after-school program.

"For us, the instruments are a means to an end," Morrison said, "to restore music-education programs that have been dropped due to budget cuts."

Save the Music has "grown from a small pilot program with Time Warner in New York to become a real force," he added.

VH1 and its affiliates will host additional instrument-delivery events through the second week of October. Many are set to coincide with the beginning of the new school year.