“All young people should have the opportunity to discover and reach their full potential through the power of mentorship and the arts.”Dr. Chad Bernstein
Innovating through music. Impacting communities.
Dr. Chad Bernstein is a husband and father of four amazing kids, the co-founder of Guitars Over Guns, and a professional musician who has been instrumental in the evolution of the “Latin Funk” sound of Miami. Through the universal language of music, Chad galvanized the artist community to use music as a bridge to reach and empower Miami and Chicago’s most vulnerable youth.
Chad received a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Miami in 2012, turning the focus of his academic studies to Guitars Over Guns in his dissertation, “The Effectiveness of Music Mentoring for At-Risk Youth Through the GOGO Program,” published in 2012. This paved the way for Guitars Over Guns’ research-based methodology and set the stage for Chad and his father, Bob, a Chicago investment professional, to collaborate on the organization’s creation in 2008. Chad took on Guitars Over Guns as a full-time career upon graduating (while continuing a rigorous performance schedule) and was named CEO in 2012. Today, Guitars Over Guns has a $2,000,000 budget with 80 musicians serving more than 1,000 students a year at 30+ sites between Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
In April of 2015, Chad was honored as a CNN Hero for his work and has since been featured on the Steve Harvey Show and in People Magazine. In 2019, Chad received the Ruth Shack Leadership Award, an honor held in Miami’s highest regard; and in 2020 was named an inaugural recipient of the Elevate Prize, selected from among 1,300 applicants worldwide by a prestigious judging panel that included Chef José Andres, María Elena Salinas, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Chad remains one of South Florida’s premier Latin, jazz, and funk artists. While trombone remains his primary instrument, he also plays conch shells, sousaphone, and keyboards with multiple bands. He performs most prominently with the Latin Grammy-nominated Spam Allstars, with whom he has toured throughout Europe and the U.S., and the highly popular Miami-based Latin-funk band, ¡Suénalo!, the inspiration for Guitars Over Guns. He has also worked with Pitbull, Shakira, will.i.am, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Chaka Kahn, John Legend, Phil Ramone, and many more.
Chad is currently serving his second term as a Governor on the board of the Recording Academy (GRAMMYs), where he co-chairs their Education Committee. In addition to his work with The Spam Allstars and ¡Suénalo!, two groups that have pioneered Miami’s signature Latin-Funk sound, Chad also works with James Brown’s long-time musical director, Pee Wee Ellis, and Latin pop star Jencarlos Canela.
Chad released his first full-length CD, Suite for 2nd Lieutenant, in 2012, an original body of work he wrote in dedication to his brother, Max Bernstein, upon his first deployment to Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine Corps combat platoon leader. He released that CD after his brother completed his very distinguished service as a Captain and Company Commander in 2014.