Donate Your Instrument Celebrates 125 Donations

News Release – Nov. 6, 2023

With photo, caption at end

Contact: Ray Tuers, 828 556 8224

BREVARD – Got an old clarinet you haven’t touched in years up in the attic? Or a violin gathering dust on a closet shelf? Or maybe a retired trombone in the basement?

The Brevard Philharmonic wants them. They could help ignite a new musical career through the orchestra’s “Donate Your Instrument” (DYI) program for county schoolchildren.

With a roster of some 90 musicians, the orchestra already makes an impact on adult music-lovers with its concerts. But it also has a deep interest in spreading music education among younger generations.

One of its most successful efforts is its DYI program collecting unused instruments, refurbishing them and then giving them to the county’s two high schools and two middle schools for children to use for lessons and practice.

DYI is celebrating its eighth anniversary this month. As of the current school year it has given schools no fewer than 125 instruments. Everything from a ukulele to a piano.

People have donated guitars and mandolins, trombones, saxophones, flutes, trumpets, clarinets and violins, to name just a few.

“People are so generous,” says program director Aleta Tisdale, who says the mission is to make more instruments available to children, especially those whose families may not be able to afford one.

It’s a worthy mission, says Topher Kane, Band Director at Brevard Middle School. “It’s really helped with a lot of kids.”

He says 10 of the 60 instruments in his school’s inventory came from DYI.

Tisdale can only guess the reasons people donate. “They just don’t play the instruments anymore,” she said. “Sometimes it’s that they buy them thinking they’re going to learn to play, but they lose interest.”

In any event, Brevard Philharmonic wants more. DYI can make good use of all it can get, says Tisdale.

She is a retired information technologist who herself played violin in the Brevard Philharmonic orchestra for eight years. She got the idea to establish DYI when she encountered a Brevard High School teen-ager who couldn’t play her violin anymore. It had been damaged because her family had become homeless and had to live in a tent in Pisgah National Forest.

“I thought, I wonder how many other kids would love to play but can’t afford an instrument?” she said.

Tisdale brought the idea to Brevard Philharmonic’s 15-member Board of Directors and they gave it an enthusiastic approval. They still support DYI heartily, she says.

The word went out in announcements and on the orchestra’s website, and donations grew.

                                                 The process

An instrument may be donated by taking it to one of Brevard Philharmonic’s concerts or calling its office at 884 4221 to arrange a drop-off or pick-up.

Then Tisdale, who’s been playing in orchestras since she was a teen-ager in Connecticut, assesses the instrument and contacts school music teachers to learn who might need it. She knows each of the teachers on a first-name basis.

“They’re all fantastic,” she said. “They love our program. The more kids play an instrument, they say, the happier they are and DYI helps to ensure that every kid can participate.”

So far DYI has been able to place every instrument it processes. How many children have benefited is anyone’s guess, but the figure has to be in the hundreds, said Tisdale. As one student moves on, the instrument is lent to another.

Tisdale guesses donated instruments in some cases have likely ignited serious musical careers.

Rosman music teacher Hazel Ketchum says no doubt about it. One of her students has gone on to Western Carolina University to major in Music Education.  Ketchum says she currently has lots of others playing instruments DYI has donated.

                                                   The bills 

Many instruments are in less than top condition when donated, so before delivery to a school Tisdale arranges for repairs and restoration. Sometimes brass horns are dented. Instrument cases are moldy or falling apart. Violin bows almost always need rehairing.

It can get expensive. Restoring a bow can cost $60. A recent bill for an alto saxophone was $620, mostly to replace the felt-like pads that seal key valves.

Brevard Philharmonic must budget for those expenses. So in addition to instruments, cash donations to support DYI are critical. They can be made easily on the website or by mailing a check with DYI on the memo line to Brevard Philharmonic, PO Box 1547, Brevard, NC 28712.

Tisdale says the most popular instruments moving through the program are the strings, with woodwinds, such as flutes and clarinets, close behind.

When they are given to a school the instruments become the school’s property and are added to its permanent inventory of teaching materials.

DYI fits in naturally with Brevard Philharmonic’s broader Music in the Schools (MIS) program. In that, groups of professional musicians visit schools to perform in person.

            “Our mission in MIS,” says its director, Mary Beth Shumate, “is to inspire, educate, and enrich the students in Transylvania County through exceptional, professional musical performances.”

MIS concentrates on kindergarten through eighth grade students. It demonstrates orchestral instruments through live performances.  Each grade level is exposed to a different age-appropriate experience.  Students from public schools, home schools and private schools are included.

Dusty Campbell, Brevard Philharmonic’s Executive Director, says such programs as MIS and DYI support the organization’s mission statement: “To inspire, educate and enrich our audiences through exceptional, professional musical performances and community outreach.”

General information about Brevard Philharmonic is available on its website, or by calling its 884 4221 number.