New music program at CPS brings instruments to students in need

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public Schools' "Strike Up the Band" program is bringing instruments to students who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford one.

Strike Up the Band is a program under a new initiative the district started this year called Bright Futures, which aims to meet student needs through community effort.

The school district started asking for instrument donations in January, and district officials said Tuesday people have donated 38 instruments so far.

CPS Fine Arts Coordinator James Melton said he has been impressed with the instruments the district has received.

"We've had a couple beautiful cellos donated, which really surprised me, that people have stopped playing them but are willing to donate them for future educational experiences," he said. "And we've gotten a gorgeous French horn. That was a real surprise as well."

Melton said the goal of the instrument drive is to allow all students to have the opportunity to play in band or orchestra.

"We have lots of students every year that enroll in instrumental music, and sometimes we have students that want to be in the program but can't, because they can't afford the rental costs or they can't get ahold of an instrument for whatever reason," he said.

This summer, the instruments are being evaluated to see if they need to be repaired or cleaned before the students get them in August. Most of the children who get the instruments are middle schoolers, but some instruments will be used for other educational purposes.

"We have a few instrument donations like a guitar or some smaller string instruments that might benefit elementary schools," Melton said. "We're also looking at some of the older instruments, some of the oldest ones that maybe cannot be repaired or cleaned up to be used, but using those as examples in our elementary classrooms when we do 'meet the instrument' type experiences where they get to see a clarinet or they get to hold a flute. They might not be good enough to play, but they can be part of the educational experience."

The funds to repair and clean the instruments come from monetary donations from the community. Melton said the district also might do some fundraisers to cover the costs, but there is some room in the budget as well.

Melton said music education is important because it does more than just teach a student how to play an instrument.

"There's a lot of research out there that says it buoys other subject areas," he said. "But I think music education also just gets to the heart of being human. So by participating in band, orchestra and choirs, we just teach kiddos more about themselves and how to relate to others around them. And so by providing an instrument, we give them that window to that opportunity."

Instrument and monetary donations are being accepted at the district administration building at 1818 W. Worley St. and Upscale Resale at 1729 W. Broadway.