It’s 8:20 a.m. in the band room at Everett’s North Middle School. Anyone hoping for a sleepy first period gets a wake-up call instead. “Drummers, please look alive,” the teacher says as her seventh-graders launch into “Louie Louie” and John Philip Sousa’s “The Thunderer” march.
Despite end-of-school eagerness, the kids diligently practiced Wednesday for Everett’s Colors of Freedom 4th of July Parade. It will be the first time in years for North’s band to march and play in the downtown parade, scheduled for 11 a.m. July 4.
This year also brought North musicians a much needed gift. Some of the nearly 40 students in the room Wednesday played instruments that are a part of a Seattle couple’s generous donation to North Middle School’s music program.
Dorothy Stansel and her husband recently donated about 75 “great quality instruments,” said Emily Cheever, North’s director of choirs and bands. Stansel’s husband asked not to be named in this article. His last name is different from his wife’s.
Cheever, the teacher overseeing the seventh-graders, said the gift includes many flutes and clarinets, as well as trumpets, trombones, violins, a viola and a cello. “Most of them are vintage, which is exactly what you want,” said Cheever, explaining that some new instruments aren’t made as well as older ones. “There is a marked quality difference,” she said.
“My husband loves to collect things,” Stansel, 76, said Thursday. The Seattle couple own an apartment in Paris, and on a visit there they found clarinets in a flea market. One was of such high quality it’s now in a museum.
That experience led them to seek out other old instruments. A cellist who also plays clarinet, Stansel became so interested she enrolled in a 10-month instrument-repair course at Renton Technical College, one of the few such programs in the country.
With a background in chemistry, she is retired after running a consulting company. Her husband, a retired medical professional, plays clarinet and saxophone.
At North on Wednesday, Jazmin Chavez, a 13-year-old flutist, played an instrument donated by the couple. Her bandmate Hannah Wells, 13, plays clarinet.
“I like to be around music, and she’s really fun,” Hannah said of Cheever. The music teacher is new to North this year, but taught a dozen years at Penny Creek Elementary School in south Everett. In coming to North, Cheever had big shoes to fill. Craig Cummings, the school’s popular band teacher for many years, died last June after battling cancer.
Other North band members share Hannah’s enthusiasm for music.
“You can express your emotions, and it’s fun,” said Abe Affholter, 13, who plays alto saxophone. “Music’s my thing,” said Jakob Paulson, 14, a sax player also involved in North football, soccer and track. “Band gives you lots of opportunities to go somewhere,” said 13-year-old Jeremy Reed, another sax musician.
Cheever reached out to the Seattle couple after learning they had donated more than 100 instruments to Centennial Middle School in Snohomish.
Linda Pilcher, Centennial’s band teacher, said the couple’s grandson was once a band student at that school. “They love music and were at every concert their grandson performed in,” she said. They contacted her “out of the blue” about two years ago with an offer of instruments.
“We’re at a point in life when every nonprofit and cultural organization is looking for substantial donations,” Stansel said. “Instead of doing that, we take the money and go shopping. So far, I think we’ve given away 184 instruments.” She and her husband browse online auctions, pawn shops and Goodwill stores.
“There is no question it’s made a huge difference. I’ve had students able to participate this year who would not otherwise be able to,” Pilcher said.
The teachers see music work miracles in kids’ lives.
“School is so cerebral. This room is different,” Cheever said. “Music gets them here. It excites them. For some of our kiddos, music is everything.”