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
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
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
The cost of renting
instruments can range from $25 to $50 per
"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
At the same time,
Lawrence said, "there are homes within our
district, within Muskegon County, where
instruments are sitting there not being
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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."