Monday, September 14, 2009

Muskegon school students want your musical instruments

by Lynn Moore | The Muskegon Chronicle
Monday December 01, 2008, 11:21 PM

If your dad's old trumpet is gathering dust in the attic, or your son's violin -- that he tried and gave up -- has been relegated to a closet, Muskegon Public Schools has a better place for them.

The school district's music program is looking for donated instruments that will allow children, whose families can't afford to purchase instruments, to participate in band or orchestra.

While the district provides larger, very expensive instruments, like French horns, oboes, basses and cellos, it's up to students to provide most other instruments. If their parents can't afford to buy or rent instruments -- or don't have the credit needed to enter a lease agreement -- children are out of luck, and participating in band isn't an option for them.

The cost of renting instruments can range from $25 to $50 per month.

"There are kids who cannot be in the band program for the simple fact they cannot get an instrument -- it's impossible for them," said Janice Lawrence, director of Muskegon's instrumental music program.

At the same time, Lawrence said, "there are homes within our district, within Muskegon County, where instruments are sitting there not being used."

"We can take that instrument and give it to a kid so they can be in band," she said.

The district will provide a receipt so that donors can claim a tax deduction for their donation.

The district is seeking all types of instruments used in band and orchestra programs, including flutes, violas, clarinets, violins, trombones and cellos.

Lawrence estimates that 20 to 60 middle school students each year can't participate in band because they don't have instruments. Most students wanting to be in band or orchestra need to begin before high school, or they simply can't catch up, Lawrence said.

Kathy Cron, the district's orchestra director, said she hasn't had to turn away students, but they often have to switch to instruments that weren't their first choice.

"We need all the instruments," Cron said. "Even if they're broken, we can have them repaired."

She estimated 80 percent of her students can't afford to provide their own instruments -- compared with a few years ago when 75 percent could.

"We're just in a bad way right now," Cron said.

Music helps with brain development, providing students instruction in "another foreign language" as well as mathematics concepts, Lawrence and Cron said.

"But bigger than that, it's belonging to a group and understanding they are parts of a whole," Lawrence said. "They are responsible to people in the group. ... It's a family thing that they do."

Cron said music helps students academically and socially.

"These kids don't get in trouble because they're busy," she said. "We're making music together, we're not going out to look for things to do. ... These children are motivated."

At Muskegon High, the marching band is an important part of the school's storied tradition, Lawrence said.

"When they leave as seniors we have had them for seven years, and it is a part of who they are as a person," she said. "It's huge."

Contact the Instrumental Music Department at 231-720-2850

The address is:

Instrumental Music Dept.
c/o Muskegon High School
80 W. Southern Ave.
Muskegon, MI 49441