Our History

History of the Shropshire Music Foundation

The Foundation’s inception began in 1999 when music teacher and composer Liz Shropshire was moved Cropped liz with young boy wearing new coat and mittens received from 2003 donationsby the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo, where centuries-old ethnic conflicts erupted into a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Albanians, leaving 10,000 dead, 300,000 homeless and 1 million refugees.

Pictures of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo-- refugee camps, burned out homes, prisoners of war, mourning women, and traumatized children-- prompted Liz Shropshire, a Los Angeles composer and music teacher, to undertake a brave and important project for the children of Kosovo beginning in 1999. Drawing on her advanced degrees in musical composition and twenty years' experience in music and education, she envisioned a musical education program for Kosovo's refugee children.

She soon developed this innovative children’s music program in refugee camps, homeless shelters, and bombed-out schools.  Many of the children she worked with suffered from PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms.  They acted out executions and other atrocities in their playtime and had little self-esteem.  She taught the kids how to sing and play simple musical instruments—pennywhistles, drums, harmonicas.  And then she trained local youth to teach the classes themselves.

This self-sustaining model was highly successful.  The documented results of the program included significantly improved rates of secondary school completion and college attendance.  Among Kosovo youth volunteers, for example, 100% completed primary and secondary school, as compared to fewer than 40% of children in Kosovo at large. More than 90% of SMF volunteers went on to attend college, as compared to 33% of high school graduates across Kosovo. 

We have since brought this model to approximately 20,000 young people in war-affected communities around the world including:

  • Former child soldiers and teen mothers in Uganda
  • Catholic and Protestant children in Northern Ireland
  • Syrian, Afghan and Yazidi youth in refugee camps in Greece
  • Street children and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
  • Underserved children and refugees in Salt Lake City
  • Afghan refugees newly arrived in Phoenix
  • Ukrainians living as refugees in Poland

During the pandemic we also served trauma-affected frontline healthcare workers and school teachers throughout the US

Accolades include the receipt of the 2017 Adolf Busch Award as an “organization using music to promote a more civil and just society.”  Executive director Liz Shropshire also received the 2017 Brigham Young University Alumni Achievement Award for her "powerful and long-lasting contribution to children around the world."