The Music Makers 2U program enables area band students like these at Maplewood Middle School to own their own instruments. (Rick Hickman / American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 1:15 PMrea youngsters are getting a chance to grow as musicians through the Music Makers 2U organization, which helps young musicians to own their own instrument.
The program began last year and has donated 20 instruments to local artists. Music Makers takes donated instruments, refurbishes and cleans them, then donates them to students who have been recommended by area teachers. The students sign a two-year contract to take the instrument. If they are still playing and have shown to be responsible caretakers of the instruments at the end of the contract, they get to keep the instrument.
Eva LeBlanc, president of the organization, said the intent is to help young people that want to learn.
“Over the last year, I had the opportunity to donate a couple of instruments to local students,” she said.
“I thought if there are a couple of area students that I know are in need, or have a desire to learn how to play, there must be others. I began forming the board in July and we started in August. There are 11 people on the board of directors. We have collected 30 instruments so far and have given 20 of them to students. Right now we are looking at oboe, viola, string bass — those are the main ones there is a need for that we have not paired yet. Those are the more rare instruments that people may not have played or owned. Instruments like trombones, clarinets, trumpets are more commonly owned.”
Donated instruments are reconditioned before being passed on to students.
“Once we receive an instrument, it is sent off to Lafayette Music to see if it needs to be cleaned or refurbished, then it is sent back to us,” LeBlanc said.
“Then local band and orchestra directors or private piano teachers will refer us to different students. They will recommend a student to us that has demonstrated good musicianship and are responsible. It is not so much need in terms of money; we do not get into all that. If a student has a desire and does not have an instrument, it is based on that.”
Recipients range in age from 7-18. Donors have sent in instruments from all around the country.
“We had a guy who donated a trumpet after having it for 60 years,” LeBlanc said. “He never learned how to play it. It is a beautiful instrument. We have a lot of people whose kids played in high school and have gone off and gotten married. Parents have these instruments just sitting in a closet and don’t know what to do with them. It is mostly parents whose kids have left home. We have received donations from all over. Probably the furthest away was Washington state. A friend of one of the board members learned of us through our Facebook page. He brought it with him when he came down for a visit. People are telling people and the word is spreading. We have had instruments from Mississippi, north Louisiana and Texas.”
LeBlanc said owning an instrument is a big deal for a musician.
“Ownership is very important to a musician,” she said.
“It is yours now. You have to take care of it, there is a tone to it, a particular sound to it, that is going to uniquely be theirs now. A lot of people ask ‘Why don’t you just donate it to the school and be done with it?’ That’s not how we want it to work. We follow them for two years to make sure they are showing good musicianship, reliability and at the end of the second year, if they are still playing the instrument and enjoying it and are responsible, it becomes theirs. This way, these students can take instruments home with them, practice with them, keep it clean and in good working condition, it is a whole new ball game for them. When we do the pairing, the recipient sends a thank you card to the donor, so they get to know who it is, and the donor gets to hear from the student and see how they are doing. It is a special part and component of what we are doing.”
Recipients have enjoyed getting a chance to have their own instrument.
“They are just thrilled,” LeBlac said.
“One girl who got a violin said she was not going to sleep that night because she was so excited. Another young lady got a violin and asked if she could hug it. We have had people say ‘Is this really mine?’ because they could not believe what was happening to them. We have a had father who said ‘We have eight children, I never though I would see the day where my son would own an instrument.’ We have made quite an impact in a short period of time. For this year, our goal would probably be 50 instruments given out. We are well on our way to that goal. Of course, we are going to give as many as we can pair up. We would like to spread into the Imperial Calcasieu areas. We are trying to keep up with the success that we are having, so it is just based in Calcasieu for now.”
The organization accepts donations to help cover refurbishing and cleaning costs.