Blizzard causes drop in donations for instrument drive

Published: Mar. 18, 2019 at 4:38 AM MDT
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A statewide instrument drive is in desperate need of donations after last week’s blizzard caused donation sites to close and people to stay hunkered down indoors.

The Bringing Music to Life Instrument Drive runs from March 11-23. Executive Director Steven Blatt said the drive collected about 275 instruments during the first week but said that’s about 150 fewer instruments compared to this time last year.

The drive collects donations of gently-used band and orchestra instruments that will be dispersed to schools in need around the state. Horizon Middle School in School District 49 has received instruments from the drive for the past few years.

“They really help me be able to have kids in the program,” said Karen Leonhardt, the orchestra teacher at Horizon.

Blatt said the drive is hoping to collect between 600 and 700 instruments during this year’s drive.

The instrument donations mostly go to Title One schools or schools where a lot of students get free or reduced lunch, according to Blatt. Sometimes, these instrument donations are the only way a child would have the opportunity to play an instrument.

“In our area, we have a lot of single parents,” Leonhardt said. “We have a lot of parents that are just on that line of being comfortable at home, and hearing that they can have some support as their kid tries out something new is, really, a way to say ‘yes’ to the kid, and when they see that the kid is like, ‘Oh, yes. This is for me. I love this. I can do this,’ then they’ll invest more money and more time for that.”

She said her orchestra program has more students each year, so the instruments really ensure that every student who wants to play an instrument can, even if they can’t afford their own.

“They’re mine forever, which is really wonderful,” Leonhardt said about the instruments. “So they enter my rental stock, and they continue to be used by Horizon students until their life is over.”

Even students who can afford their own instrument and don’t need one from the donation drive understand how important it is for every student to have a quality instrument.

“My favorite part is probably playing with everyone because having everyone’s different part, it just makes the music sound better,” said sixth-grader Tavion Kline.

Students like that they’re able to take the rented instruments home to practice.

“I practice about 20 minutes a day, maybe 10,” said sixth-grader Derrick Rackley. “It helps me get in the mood for violin, and it’s awesome.”

Leonhardt said all donations are welcome.

“If you have an instrument under your bed, it is probably much better quality than what I can buy on Amazon for $150,” she said. “These older instruments that are from the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s; they are just made with better materials, and so something like that is going to last my program much longer than what I can buy new for the price point that I have.”

The drive is looking for donations of gently used strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, guitars and electronic keyboards. The drive will not accept upright and grand pianos or organs.

There are donation drop-off locations around the state. A list can be found on Bringing Music to Life’s


People who don’t have an instrument but still want to donate can donate money that will go toward repairing the instruments. The average repair cost is $155 per instrument, according to Blatt. Money can be donated


Teachers and principals can apply to receive instrument donations for their schools

by March 31. The donations will be awarded during a ceremony on Aug. 10.

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