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Ozarks Foundation Helps Kids Get a Music Education

Albert E. Brumley (Credit:
Albert E. Brumley (Credit:

An Arkansas-based foundation, which honors a Missouri songwriter, works to help children learn about music. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more on the I’ll Fly Away Foundation. 

I'll Fly Away, sung by Johnny Cash

Albert E. Brumley wrote this well-known song “I’ll Fly Away.”  He also wrote many other songs including “Turn Your Radio On” and “Jesus, Hold My Hand.”  Brumley spent the majority of his life in Missouri—on the banks of Big Sugar Creek in Powell.  In 1944, he purchased the Hartford Music Company in Arkansas so he could get his copyrights back, according to his daughter, Betsy Brumley.  He moved it to Powell, MO and changed the name to Albert Brumley & Sons Publishing, which turns 70 years old this year. 

Betsy Brumley says her grandfather was the most eccentric man she’s ever known.

"He was a very quiet, gentle soul, which he didn't talk much.  He really expressed himself through his words and his music.  He was a creative genius--you know those people who are so smart that they're just different than everybody else?  He was like that," she said.

She says he ate unusual food concoctions like cornflakes with tomato juice for breakfast, and he slept odd hours.  He also had an amazing gift for songwriting.

"He lived in his head, and he would write music down on anything, anything like popsicle sticks or telephone bills, anything.  When something came to him, he wrote it down," she said.

In 1976, Brumley says her grandfather wanted to start a foundation for music education scholarships.  He passed away the next year before the foundation got up and running.  But he had tucked away the paperwork for it.

"Well, about three years ago my husband and I were going through the archives.  And I had had  an inkling you know like, 'we should do some kind of a non-profit.  I think that would be great to help kids,' so we prayed about it and then one day we were digging through the archives  and found this paperwork and we were like, 'oh, ok.  I guess we have an answer,'" she said.

They established the I’ll Fly Away Foundation, based in Bella Vista, Arkansas, fulfilling one of Albert Brumley’s last wishes.  Its mission is to improve children’s lives through music.

"And we do that in many ways.  We hold songwriting classes called the You Can Fly Songwriting Camp, we go into schools, Boys and Girls Clubs or civic organizations.  We take a professional songwriter with us, and we teach people how to think outside the box, how to problem solve differently.  We give children a voice, you know, when they possibly couldn't have one because sometimes it's easier to write down words and sing 'em than it is to tell you what's going on inside," she said.

The foundation also offers music history classes and it hosts fundraisers like one held over the weekend in Lebanon.  The dinner and concert raised money for music scholarships and music education in Lebanon.

Brumley says she hopes her grandfather is proud of what the foundation has accomplished so far.

"You know, after finding that paperwork I think that he would be just beaming knowing that it didn't just stop with him.  You know, that he kept going--we're paying it forward," she said.

To find out more about the I’ll Fly Away Foundation, visit