The tuba is a little tired. The cello is past its prime, and the French horns are just exhausted.
Many of the band instruments at Lewis and Clark High School need replacement, but school district coffers are empty, and it’ll take more than a well-organized bake sale to raise the estimated $100,000 needed.
“I’ve been here for 21 years, and it was worse when I started,” said Larry Jay, music director at Lewis and Clark High School. “We’re not pointing fingers at the school district; they’ve helped us when they could, but we do need some new instruments.”
So the Lewis and Clark High School Instrumental Music Parents Association has launched an adopt-an-instrument program hoping to round up some sponsors.
“A corporation, a family or an individual can pay for an instrument or for part of one,” said Yvonne Payne, who is president of the Music Parents Association and spearheading the fundraising efforts. “If you buy a complete instrument we will engrave it in honor of you, or someone you’d like to honor.” Donors who give more than $1,000 will also be recognized on banners that will be displayed at school concerts and on plaques.
“If we are successful doing this, I’d like to see the model expand to the whole district,” Payne said.
“It’s been very time-consuming to set this up,” Payne said.
Among the instruments needed are five concert tubas at an estimated $6,000 apiece; a bassoon at as much as $7,000; four French horns at about $5,800 a piece and two piccolos at around $1,000.
“No donation is too small,” said Payne. “And we are thrilled to receive any good instruments people may have sitting around.”
When Jay started at Lewis and Clark there were about 60 students in the program – today there are more than 200.
“The instruments get used by so many people every day, they get worn,” said Jay. “The big picture is, as we look down the road, we’re expecting more kids to come into our program.”
Spokane Schools has a renewed emphasis on music education, said Dave Weatherred, visual and performing arts coordinator for the district, which means more music students.
“In some schools we have a pilot program in fifth grade where we offer either band or strings, instead of a general music class,” said Weatherred. “We have to supply more instruments than ever before.” He added that the pilot program started last year at 12 out of the district’s 35 schools and that more schools are expected to be added.
Most schools need at least some of their instruments replaced.
“The problem is districtwide, if not statewide,” Weatherred said.
He welcomes the initiative at Lewis and Clark.
“I guess if they do really well, then there will be more money left over for the other schools,” Weatherred said. “Or maybe we can expand the fundraising to the entire district – either way, it’s a great idea.”
Payne said the Music Parents Association already does three fundraisers every year, to pay for uniforms, trips and competitions. It was after researching grant opportunities – and finding very few – that Payne and the other music parents decided they had to find a new approach.
“We know the money isn’t just going to come rolling in,” Payne said. “We’re hoping to be able to get one-third of the instruments this year. This will at least be a three-year campaign.”