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Many students may dream of participating in the school band or orchestra, but sometimes the cost of a new instrument can be the difference in picking up the trombone and finding a different school activity.
School music programs offer their share of benefits, and one local church is doing what they can to help.
Gary Steinhilberand The First Presbyterian Church’s Outreach Committee have been addressing this issue for 11 years.
Steinhilber said while listening to University of Louisville’s classical radio station WUOL he overheard the disc jokey requesting donations for musical instruments.
“They said, ‘If you have a instrument turn it over to the radio, we’ll give it to the school,’” Steinhilber recalled. “So if they can do that in Jefferson County, why can we do that here?
Steinhilber said the church had an outreach program and had been working for several years with the schools in providing items for school students that wanted to participate in certain programs but did not have the financial means.
“Our outreach committee would occasionally get calls from…teachers, at the Family Resource Center,” he said. “Sometimes a girl wanted to be a cheerleader and couldn’t afford the [uniform], they’d ask for help. Sometimes it’d be a musical instrument.”
Since the program was established in 2003, over 50 instruments have been donated to the school system.
Through a Partners in Education Program, The First Presbyterian Church is once again seeking donations from the community in order to provide instruments to Shelby County Public School students that cannot afford to buy their own.
“It’s a great thing,” SCPS Public Relations Coordinator Ryan Allan said. “He finds used instruments and donates them to the school.”
Allan explained that donating instruments is something Steinhilber does with his church every year around this time and the school greatly appreciates it.
Mary McGillen, who teaches orchestra at Martha Layne Collins High School, said she has seen the direct impact the donations have had on the district.
“I can think of a couple students with special needs-in certain ways. It was good to have them in class, but they couldn’t get an instrument on their own, it is good to have those instruments. Sometimes we just have them for a few weeks so it’s good to have [the instruments] in there,” she said.
“I’ve had a few that were really, really talented that just couldn’t get the instrument.”
McGillen said about one-third or one-forth of the students in her orchestra class borrow their instruments from the district.
However, her orchestra group is not the only entity in need of the donations.
“There are about three orchestra teachers throughout the district, so I contact them and see if they have any needs,” she said. “Otherwise we put them in one local school and throughout the year sometimes someone will call and we’ll send one over.”
McGillen said she believes the school has about 50 instruments to loan to the orchestra but was uncertain how many was available to band students. It is estimated, however, that Steinhilber’s donations make up about 13 percent of the school-owned instruments.
If you have an instrument that you would like to donate, contact First Presbyterian Church at 633-2693. The committee also accepts cash donations, which can be used towards purchasing instruments or restoring and repairing donated instruments.