With a snap of its locks and the touch of its familiar velvet lining, an instrument case can instantly bring back childhood memories -- the dream of making music, even before you could read the black dots on a musical staff designating their notes and rhythms.
It's this joy that the Music4Life program hopes to share with students in the Edmonds School District, the first time the program has been offered in Snohomish County.
The goal of the program is to collect, repair and distribute used band and orchestra instruments to loan to students whose families aren't able to afford them.
Students typically begin learning to play musical instruments in the fifth or sixth grade. "There's a cost associated with that," said Scott Barnes, manager of the school district's visual and performing arts program.
"We have a very successful musical program in our district," Barnes said. "We want to make sure that program is available to all students."
The Music4Life program began about six years ago in Seattle. A member of the Seattle School District's staff asked David Endicott, a member of Seattle's University District Rotary Club, if he knew any members who would be interested in helping them get instruments for students.
Since then, it's been adopted by the Highline and Shoreline school districts. Tacoma is considering it and Endicott said he'd like to talk with the Everett School District about starting a program there.
Over the six years of the program's existence about 700 instruments have been donated, Endicott said.
The organization most often gets donations of trumpets, flutes, and clarinets. "Surprisingly to me we get a fair number of violins," Endicott said.
There are fewer donations of tubas and oboes, he said. A former Tacoma mayor donated an accordion.
Cash donations go toward buying specific instruments, like the 15 guitars and 30 ukuleles requested by the Highline School District.
"We're looking for whatever a child wants to play," Endicott said. "If we have it in stock, then bingo, it's made available to them. If it's not in stock we'll sure try to get it."
Music4Life asks for what it calls lovingly used instruments. "We get them fully repaired and ready to play," Endicott said.
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, who formerly led the instrumental music program at Shoreline Community College, is an enthusiastic backer of the program.
"Anything I can do to help put an instrument in a kid's hand, I want to help with. It's that simple," he said.
The goal is to establish locations throughout the school district for people to drop off musical instruments, he said.
Endicott said he's been both surprised and delighted with some of the donations people have made to the organization.
Renowned jazz singer Ernestine Anderson donated a saxophone. A high-quality, performance-level trumpet came from another donor. And a member of a Seattle-area Rotary Club donated a sterling silver flute.
Last year, it was given to a 10th-grade band member in the Highline School District. "One month after we presented it to this young lady, it was being played in Washington D.C., at the presidential inauguration," Endicott said.
"We open up the entire, wonderful world of music to them for the rest of their lives."
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to take instruments
More information on Music 4Life, the instrument donation program being launched in the Edmonds School District, including a donation form, is at www.edmondsmusic4life.org/
Donated instruments can be dropped off at any area Kennelly Keys Music store, including the store at 4918 196th St. SW in Lynnwood or 7903 Evergreen Way in Everett; the Edmonds Center for the Arts administration office, 410 Fourth Ave. N., Edmonds; and the Coldwell Banker offices at 108 Fifth Ave. S. in Edmonds and 4100 194th St. in Lynnwood.
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