Allison Novack’s aunt was a singer, her grandfather a bandleader and her older brother a pianist and guitarist. Allison has always been behind the scenes, ever since she and her older brother, Jason, co-founded 1308 Productions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public service and music education.
These days, the efforts of the nonprofit have reached out internationally, as the Novack family is currently holding a drive to collect musical instruments for children in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake – which killed more than 300,000 people according to Haitian government estimates.
“Haiti is still rebuilding after so much devastation and I believe music can be a powerful source to turn to in hard times,” said Allison, 22, a graduate of the University of Miami who currently works in Washington, D.C. for PBS in the communications corporate division. “People connect through music. It makes them happy and elevates their spirits.”
1308 Productions started about 12 years ago. Allison said while her brother was the performer, she did the business side, including concert production and public relations.
At UM, she was vice president of a student organization that brought concerts and musicians to the campus, including Billy Joel, Ludacris, Neon Trees and Diplo.
“I’ve always run management for our 1308 shows,” Allison said.
In recent years, the nonprofit’s missions have become more cause-oriented. 1308 Productions has hosted events seeking donations for soldiers on active duty through the United Service Organizations and encouraged young voters to register to vote in the presidential elections. But it was the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that moved Allison to do something more than just put on shows.
In May 2014, Allison started a drive to collect new and unused musical instruments with the purpose to open a music education program in Haiti. In August, 1308 Productions made that dream a reality by delivering more than 50 instruments to Haiti children and opening the Novack Music School of Tabarre.
The school offers children in the Tabarre commune of Port-au-Prince music lessons after school, using the instruments that were donated.
The instruments are kept and played at the Town Hall, which, according to Allison’s father, Paul Novack, serves a dual purpose for the children. He says children are not only developing their musical talents, but by playing them at the Town Hall, they can also get involved with their government.
“The response in Haiti has definitely been positive,” said Paul, an attorney. “These children in Haiti didn’t have access to musical instruments before. Many haven’t had a chance to play a guitar or a flute or a clarinet until now. Music education can change lives for the better, and I think we’ve done our small part to make a difference in these children’s lives.”
The school in Tabarre, which has more than 50 kids enrolled, has been such a success that 1308 Productions has started another drive to collect instruments for a second school in Haiti. The school is expected to open in either Gonaïves, Jacmel or Côtes-de-Fer by April.
Allison said music is one area of education that is overlooked in Haiti and American schools. It’s for this reason that the Novacks, who all grew up in Surfside and went to schools in Miami Beach, continue to give back to their community.
Every year, they award scholarship monies to students at Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center, Nautilus Middle School and Miami Beach Senior High School to advance their music education. The awards are named after Allison’s late grandfather, Robert H. Novack, and her late aunt, Carole Taran Lee.
The goal of 1308 Productions is to spread their advocacy for music to other countries.
“I would look to expand our efforts to other countries of poverty,” Allison said. “Music is the one universal language that brings people together in times of need.”
To donate a musical instrument for the Haiti initiative, drop off or ship to: 1308 Productions, 13899 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 400. North Miami, FL 33181. To request an instrument pick-up, email firstname.lastname@example.org