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Grant instrumental for Lewis and Clark

Band, orchestra win $25,000 from Pepsi

The Lewis and Clark High School Band rehearses in the school auditorium on Monday. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)
The Lewis and Clark High School Band rehearses in the school auditorium on Monday. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)

Sticky valves, dents and old age have plagued Lewis and Clark High School’s band and orchestra as the instruments grow older than the students.

But a hard-earned $25,000 grant from Pepsi awarded last week will help replace about a quarter of the much-needed tools.

“A lot of the instruments are 25 years old,” said Larry Jay, the high school’s music instructor of 23 years. “We are still using tubas that are 40-plus years, and they are tired.”

The Lewis and Clark Instrumental Music Parent Association and its president, Kathleen Sullivan, have been credited for obtaining the grant.

The effort began after Sullivan saw a snippet on television about Pepsi’s decision to give away the money they normally would have spent on Super Bowl ads.

The idea of Pepsi’s monthly Refresh Everything program is to fund great ideas.

People, businesses and nonprofits vie for $5,000, $25,000, $50,000 or $250,000 by trying to attract votes from the public, according to the website. The 10 with the most votes win the money in each category after the organizations are verified for legitimacy.

Sullivan posted the idea for the March contest: New instruments for high school band and orchestra. And she listed a few of the needed instruments, including four tubas, a sousaphone, trombone, piccolo, saxophones and English horn. She said she could have listed $100,000 in aged instruments.

Then, “I really worked the e-mail and Facebook, and we formed a coalition with other art groups who are voting for each other,” Sullivan said. “Our little e-mail list of 50 people wasn’t enough, so the networking really made a difference.”

Sullivan campaigned daily during the month-long effort, she said.

“I figured out we needed 1,000 votes per day to get in the top 10, and 2,000 votes to stay there,” she said. “We started at (No.) 163 and got up to 4 by the end of the month.”

Jay was thrilled when he heard the news.

“That’s quite the deal,” he said. “I’ve been in awe of our parent group, Kathleen in particular. She worked for a month, and really ramrodded it.

“The No. 1 priority is an English horn,” Jay said. “I’ve been trying to get one of those for 23 years.”

Last year, the school started the adopt-an-instrument program in an effort to replace more instruments, but it has been moving slowly. Sullivan blamed the economy.

Jay said, “We’ve received some wonderful donations, and some wonderful used instrument donations. And this just tops it off.”

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