Making beautiful music

Every year, Colorado Public Radio partners with local music foundations and ensembles for its annual instrument drive to help “keep the music alive.”
CPR’s instrument drive, which wrapped up last month, first began in November 2008, and all the instruments were collected into the late 2009.

A year after the collection began, the instruments were awarded to Title I schools. CPR took 2010 to plan the program before committing to make this an annual event.

Steve Blatt, the director of community programs at CPR, says CPR believes in making music available to kids.

“More children are exposed to classical music on the radio than any other place,” Blatt said. “We believe it is just as important listening to (music) as being able to learn to play; You have a whole different understanding of music when you get to be a part of making it.”

Title I schools with music programs are eligible to apply for instrument donations. Title I targets schools with the most need. Resources are allocated based upon the poverty rates of students in elementary and secondary education.

Amy Woodley, an elementary and secondary band and orchestra teacher in Jefferson County, received instruments from CPR’s first drive, which is why she is helping get the word out.

“About 70 percent of my students, around 120, use instruments owned by the school, and of those instruments, about half of them were donated,” Woodley said. “I have several students who started on donated instruments in elementary school who have gone on to be selected for a variety of honor ensembles like All-State, All-County in high school.”

Principal flutist of the Colorado Symphony, Brook Schoenwald, says she would not be where she is today without an instrument donated to her in high school by William and Dorothy McSweeney and the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

“I knew what I wanted to do and knew I would not get there with that old instrument,” Schoenwald said. “My high school orchestra knew I was struggling with it, and the development director, board of directors and a donor matched a grant together.”

One of three kids, Schoenwald recalls causing a lot of tension in her household because she wanted a new flute and money was in short supply.
“It was stressful for my mom because they didn’t rent woodwind instruments,” Schoenwald said. “I sat in the classroom for two months without an instrument.”

Schoenwald credits her donated instrument to helping her become competitive for college auditions. She didn’t get a professional flute until three or four years afterward.

Why donate an instrument?

Fewer music programs are available in public schools.

“One of the key ingredients, of course, in order to study music is to have an instrument to play,” Blatt said. “In underfunded schools and schools that are dealing with kids that may not have all the economic advantages, that often have even fewer instruments.”

District and state-wide budget cuts have not greatly affected Woodley’s programs, but she says there will be hard decisions to make in the future. Woodley says it is important for anyone who values the arts in education to make their voice heard.

Some schools have been able to double the size of their band and orchestra because of the instruments donated by CPR.

“If you have a variety of instruments kids can play more things and play in an ensemble,” Schoenwald said.

Blatt says studying music has been shown to improve academic performance, critical thinking skills, listening skills, self-discipline, planning and teamwork.
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According to the Children’s Music Workshop, a music education company, categorizes the benefits of music education into four parts: success in society, school, developing intelligence, and life.

How it works

Colorado Public Radio looked for gently used band and orchestral instruments that are playable or needs minor repairs. There were nine drop off locations this year in Boulder, Denver, Golden and Grand Junction.

Once the instruments were collected, CPR partnered with the Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology (CIOMIT) in Castlerock. CIOMIT is a company that repairs profession instruments and also teaches people how to repair instruments.

“They have volunteered to donate hundreds of hours of repairs and will be paid a fraction of the actual cost,” Blatt said. “They agreed to do all the appraisals and all the repairs of the instruments that are collected this year.”

CPR worked with 13 other foundations and ensembles to help promote the instrument drive. Some of them included: Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Boulder Philharmonic, Colorado Education Association and the Denver Philharmonic.

All of the partnerships made the information about the instrument drive available to their members and audiences -through inserts, E-mails and putting links on their websites.

Title I schools were encouraged to apply for the Melody Program or the Special Projects Program. Twenty-five schools applied for the instruments, and the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation is in the process of matching the needs of the different programs.

“They helped us the first time by accepting applications, and they have developed criteria over the last 11 years,” Blatt said. “They have developed good criteria to determine which schools have viable programs.”

When the awardees are chosen, the instruments will be awarded to them for the next school year.

In 2009, CPR collected approximately 200 hundred instruments and between 125 and 130 could be repaired. Nine schools received instruments after the first drive. This year more than 1,300 instruments were collected, three times the amount expected by CPR.

Blatt said he thinks CPR is going reach many more people because of all the donors working together.

Your brain on music 

Secondary education students who participated in band or orchestra report the lowest lifetime current use of all substances
— Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. Reported in Houston Chronicle, January 1998

Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT: students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation.
— College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.

Developing Intelligence

Compared to non-musicians, the brains of pianists are more efficient at making skilled movements. These findings show that musical training can enhance brain function.
— Weinberger, Norm. “The Impact of Arts on Learning.” MuSICa Research Notes 7, no. 2 (Spring 2000). Reporting on Krings, Timo et al. “Cortical Activation Patterns during Complex Motor Tasks in Piano Players and Control Subjects. A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study.” Neuroscience Letters 278, no. 3 (2000): 189-93.

“In medicine, increasing published reports demonstrate that music has a healing effect on patients. For all these reasons, it deserves strong support in our educational system, along with the other arts, the sciences, and athletics.”
— Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Leading Heart Surgeon, Baylor College of Music.

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