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What parents, students, and community members say

- Student

At 11 years old, I had music in my heart, and I wanted that music to reach people. Plugged In was the perfect opportunity for me.  The program allowed me to express myself, and channeled my energy towards good causes at every benefit concert. 

I learned so much about those causes and the social issues behind them, about music, about working creatively as part of a team, and about myself. Plugged In showed me my own voice. I joined up as a vocalist and keyboard player, and ended up dabbling in guitar.

At 14, I had written ten original songs (some of which touched on war, genocide, and gay rights) and recorded them in a studio recommended by Tom and Sandra. I overcame stage fright, and found I could talk spontaneously and perform in front of large groups of people. I became a much more outgoing person, comfortable with myself, and confident in myself. 

Now, I’m a sophomore at Smith College and I’m working for a socially conscious organization. Music has been pushed to the back burner, for now…but I’m still finding the time to teach myself accordion.

- Parent

I just wanted to let you know how amazing you are and the organization/program that you started! My daughter has been looking forward to coming every time and loves everyone that she is working with at plugged in. This might sound like a no brainer because she loves music, but trust me this is special. It is so refreshing to see her enjoy something and love every aspect of it!

- Student

I am currently a senior at Newton South High School. This is my 9th semester as a Plugged in student. When I first joined Plugged In in 8th grade, I walked into rehearsal having no idea what to expect. I was completely dumbfounded by the amount of freedom the students have in terms of song choice and band names. Of course I took complete advantage of that freedom and said “hey, let’s play the Pokemon theme song!” So we did, and it was great, and I loved it.

Plugged-In is a democracy. The students even choose the organizations for the benefit concerts. The students have control in their own bands, and because of that the students must acquire leadership and organizational skills.


Additionally, Plugged In is not a competition or a battle of the bands. It encourages playing music for the sake of playing music, which is exactly what music should be. The fact that there are no report cards or external rewards, only help and encouragement, allows for total creative freedom.

My favorite example is my band E Pluribus Unum. This is our 3rd semester as a band. A year ago, we were just buddies who wanted to play really really loud, and Plugged In provided a perfect setting for that. But then after the first show we wanted to challenge ourselves by coming up with an epic theme and writing original music, so we became an American History themed black metal band, because we could (and I don’t think any other band program would let us do that).

We would not exist without Plugged In. Tom, Sandra, and our teachers encouraged us to take full advantage of our creative freedom, which has given us the leadership skills and organizational skills to compile an entire set-list of original music and even book our own shows.

Plugged In has taught me the value of creative freedom, and the essential skills of a successful musician, and without it I would not be the musician I am now.

- Jon Mattleman, Director of Needham Youth Services

Plugged In is more than a music program. It’s a place for youths to connect with one another in a noncompetitive way. That’s why I love this program. If a young person isn’t an athlete or part of a school-based group, there are virtually no places that offer an opportunity to grow and connect with their peers.

Plugged In is more than music – it provides an opportunity to grow.

Plugged In is about connections – as in music connecting young people to each other and to the community.

Plugged In is a gem – and a critical part of many youth and families.

Plugged In is a shining model for engaging youth in healthy and enriching experiences.

- Parent

Plugged In is the only place that our daughter feels truly whole, loved and at peace. Her traditional school education often makes her feel less than.

Sandra and Tom plus all the wonderful teachers create a place where everyone is welcomed and celebrated. This is a rare and wonderful gift for kids like our daughter. Plus, the music they all make is awesome.

- Gretchen Ayoub, Career and Community Service Counselor at Needham High School

Thank you for all you do. In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I have thought about your program and how you give our young people healthy, structured opportunities, while recognizing their gifts and interests. I have thought about this event from so many perspectives – as a parent, an educator, an aunt.

Your work with boys is particularly critical – there are so many troubled young men and the work you do reaches out to them at a time in their lives when caring adults can still make a difference.

- Parent

Thank you so much for giving our son the incredible Plugged In experience. He had such a super time participating in your program. He was so pumped up after camp each day that he would come home and continue to play his guitar for hours. He was also so inspired by you all that he has even been working on writing his own song.

I had tears in my eyes tonight watching the amazing performances put on by each band. What a thrill it was to see the students truly come alive and give their all to each performance. I’m just astounded by the talent! I thought I was going to embarrass myself and lose it when he not only soloed, but then sang! Sandra, I know you told me that he would sing when he felt comfortable, but I certainly didn’t expect him to do it at this concert or do lead vocals for an entire song!

- Student

It’s important to have a role model or a positive influence in one’s life because it makes one feel better about one’s self. In my life, one of the most influential people has been my music instructor, Tom Pugh. Tom has always been there for me and has been behind me and supportive since I first began working with him.

Tom Pugh is a musician. He believes that giving to charitable causes and doing the right thing is very important. He combines this with his love for music and teaches kids how to work together to make music and perform. He founded the Plugged In program that allows teenagers who are interested in music to form a “Rock-n-Roll band,” and raise money for charity by giving a performance.


Before I met Tom I was going through a very rough time in my life. I was struggling with depression and school. When I heard about the Plugged In program I was rather skeptical and didn’t think that it would work out the way it has. When I met Tom for the first time I instantly knew that this was the place for me at that time in my life. It was the right thing for me to be doing.


Tom has supported me and has given me positive feedback that is very meaningful, especially for someone like me. Not only has he complimented me on my music but also noted that I am a good person and that I make other people feel better about themselves. He has told me that many times he thought that certain bands worked because of me and he felt that I led the band, that I held them together. From what I have seen, he treats everyone the way in the kind and caring manner he treats me.


Tom Pugh and the Plugged In Program have changed my life and the way that I think about the world. I don’t think that he’s aware of the extent that he has changed my life.

Many teenagers struggle with low self-esteem and lack of confidence.  Those that may not be involved with sports or school clubs may be especially vulnerable. They may engage in high-risk behaviors, including substance abuse. Plugged In has become a safe haven for many of these children. 

The community of creative, talented kids and teachers provides a network of support for kids who often feel left out from school peer groups.  The program goes beyond impacting the children’s musical skills to impacting all parts of their lives. Plugged In provides an environment in which young people feel accepted. 

Plugged In provides an environment where students experience a sense of belonging and community.  The feeling of safety that exists at Plugged In helps kids take creative chances, explore their potential as musicians and songwriters and, as a result, gain self-confidence.  Students learn to interact productively and successfully in a group environment.  The setting fosters a spirit of understanding, respect and safety among the band members. The young musicians experience increased self-esteem and support in making healthy choices.


I enthusiastically recommend Plugged In for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

- Carol Read, M.Ed, CAGS

Substance Abuse Prevention & Education, Needham Public Health Department

- Parent

My son has been involved in Plugged In for the last 5 years.  Having done volunteer work my whole life, Plugged In is one of the most amazing organizations of which I ever been a part.  This program transforms kids lives by giving them self confidence, increased musicianship and being responsible for making the world a better place.

The goal is to teach ethics, empathy and compassion locally and globally. The changes in these children are remarkable! They create a positive change in themselves and the world around them through their music.

Music is the common language that binds these kids together. Plugged In is a family where the children truly care for and respect one another regardless of age, race, sex, income, or personal handicaps.  Music transcends all boundaries.

Dear Tom and Sandra,

I am taking this opportunity after 5 years in the Plugged In program to thank you for all you’ve done for me. I feel like, during my time in Plugged In, I have greatly grown as a musician, and as a person, and I will always have a place in my heart for both of you.


From strumming my first barre chord, to taking my first guitar solo, and even singing for the first time, there was a lot of firsts for me. One of the things that your program gave me is the confidence in myself to do a lot of things: To sing, to write, to play in bands, and I really have come a long way. And to look at how far my guitar playing has come since I started the program 5 years ago, is incredible. 5 years ago, I could not play barre chords, solo, play slide, or come up with parts on my own, and now I feel like it’s all come together.

- Student

- Parent

Our son dreamed of being in a band as a drummer from age 4-­17. Due to his Cerebral Palsy we didn’t think this was possible but supported his dream as best we could buying him drum sets and tolerating LOUD attempts at sounding out his favorite rock music. When we met Tom and Sandra last summer and they explained Plugged In and sat with Will for 2 hours to get to know his ability I was STUNNED when they said he absolutely could do this.

When the first concert approached I had no idea what to expect. To see him get up and play with his band ­­ WillPower ­­was a miracle. I cried and my 2 daughters, husband and I all sat staring at each other in shock. Regardless of how they sounded (which was actually quite great thanks to Tom) the sense of accomplishment, belonging, happiness and joy William has found at Plugged In is a gift we could only have dreamed of.


The quality if instruction and amazing range of talent is remarkable.

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