Tasha Cummins never knew she wanted to play the bass until the instrument was put in her hands.
“I didn’t even know what the strings were and could barely pick it up,” the 17-year-old said. “I’ve actually learned a lot.”
Cummins’ new love for an instrument and the music she’s learning to play are what three Spokane musicians had in mind when they created The Village Experience. The nonprofit organization’s goal is to put musical instruments in the hands of at-risk youth and teach them how to play them.
“Many kids in our community don’t have the means to buy instruments and pay for lessons themselves,” said Doug LaPlante, who founded the organization along with Eileen Frances and Bill Bergin. “Those are the kids we want to reach. When we help them create something from inside themselves with music, they feel empowered and confident.”
The organization was founded in 2009, but putting the idea in motion has begun in the last few months.
The founders have sought out good deals on instruments, lined up musicians and teachers to give lessons and refurbished a recording studio where the youth can play and record.
Thursday will be the organization’s first fundraiser.
To find kids, the founders went to the East Central Community Center and the North Spokane Boys & Girls Club. Already, about 90 students are signed up.
“Demand is really high,” Bergin said.
The original target groups were kids 12 to 18 years old, but some as young as 6 have signed up, LaPlante said.
No instrument is off limits. Students have signed up to learn piano, viola, violin, guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet. No matter the instrument, LaPlante and Bergin are confident they will be able to find someone to teach it.
“We know most of the musicians in town and those who teach music; eventually we expect to contract with hundreds of them to teach music,” LaPlante said.
The money raised at Thursday’s benefit will be used to pay for lessons and buy more instruments.
“If we can help just one of these kids find their voice through music, then it’s priceless,” LaPlante said. Bergin added, “It was just a small thing we could do to benefit the community.”