Yearly used musical instrument drive a lifeline for Colorado Springs middle school's band

March 11, 2017 Updated: March 11, 2017 at 4:38 pm
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Music instruments. Ukulele, drum sticks, tambourine on piano. Top view with dark vignette. (iStock photo)

Band students' pursuit of coaxing sweet notes out of unwieldy instruments can be costly for parents.

Clarinets and flutes can run $500 to $700. Trombones are priced about $1,000 to $1,500, and buying the granddaddy tuba is a $4,000 to $5,000 investment.

"The biggest problem with instruments is they're expensive," said Jess Haney, instrumental music teacher at Panorama Middle School in Harrison School District 2.

"Let's be honest, schools right now don't have a priority to pay for that now because budgets are stretched thin," Haney said.

An annual used instrument drive helps take the pain out of joining band.

The Bringing Music to Life Instrument Drive starts Monday and concludes March 25.

Sixteen locations around the state, including Meeker Music, 624 N. Tejon St., in Colorado Springs, are accepting donations of used and unwanted band and orchestra instruments.

Last year, the nonprofit drive provided 520 instruments worth more than $200,000 to 40 schools in Colorado, including Panorama Middle School.

The instruments will be repaired, refurbished and given to underfunded band programs around the state, in time for the start of the new school year in the fall.

Haney said his school applied for the program last year because he didn't have funding from the school to replace instruments that were damaged beyond repair.

"The average life of instruments is eight to 12 years; a lot of the stuff in my school is from the 1970s," he said. "They're past their prime, and you can't find parts to fix them."

The school received 14 instruments from the drive and loans them to students for free.

One student who joined the band with a donated instrument was failing but has "blossomed into a fine musician and has started turning in his work and passing his classes," Haney said.

The program helps students who cannot afford to rent or buy an instrument to experience band, according to organizers.

"Learning to play music has such a positive impact on children," Steve Blatt, executive director of Bringing Music to Life, said in a statement.

The practice helps improve listening skills, self-discipline, self-esteem, teamwork and perseverance, he said.

Blatt started the program in 2014 as a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center.

Teachers and principals can apply for their school to be a recipient through March 30.

Donations of strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, guitars and electronic keyboards will be accepted during the two-week period that starts Monday. Upright and grand pianos and organs will not be accepted.

People who don't have an instrument they want to part with can make a contribution to the organization's repair fund. Repairs average $120 per instrument, according to organizers.

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