More than $5,000 worth of music supplies and instruments were recently donated to the Calaveras High School music program by the Calaveras Youth Organization, a local nonprofit.
The items included five guitars with fresh sets of strings and a tenor saxophone, along with new drum- heads, percussion mallets and sticks, reeds for woodwinds and mutes for brasses.
Brittany Church, the substitute music director, said the new additions will upgrade the quality of current instruments, and will help ensure that students have their own instruments to play on.
“Some of the materials that we got are to replace things that are broken,” Church said, sitting on a piano bench in the band room. “We have quite a few guitars but some of them are beyond repair. So we have to replace them in order to have enough guitars for everybody in (the guitar section). Right now I have three people that are always switching guitars because we don’t have enough.”
A percussionist and 2015 CHS graduate, Church said she was especially excited to replace the current drum- heads, since they haven’t been changed since she graduated.
“We have a whole bunch of drumheads that got donated, and so those are going to replace the ones that haven’t been replaced since before I graduated,” she said. “We have a student whose tenor (saxophone) is very old and needs to be replaced, so she’s going to get that, so hopefully it’ll help her a little bit with improving and better sound.”
The expense was covered by funds raised in an annual tri-county music talent contest called Calaveras Has Talent.
“That’s where we get the money so that we can step up and supply these things to fill their need,” said Neil Hjelmervik, president of the Calaveras Youth Organization. “Anything we can do to encourage music education is great news for all the kids in Calaveras County.”
The organization encourages community members to recognize and support performances and activities of local school music programs.
Students in the music room said they were grateful for the donations.
“It’s very helpful because the band doesn’t get a lot of stuff as it is, so it’s extremely helpful that people will step up and give us all of these amazing things,” said Sam Shelton, a saxophone player.
Church said there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the music program, but not for making the purchases needed to maintain and replace instruments.
“There’s a lot of need and support, but the support that we usually get is ‘Good job, thanks for being here,’ but not so much, ‘How can we help you?’ There’s a lot more that we need to replace and repair, but we don’t have the funding. People who are supporting are already doing so much, so it’s really hard,” she said.
On a more upbeat note, Church said she hopes to ramp up efforts to promote the music program and help get kids interested in playing from a young age.
“It’s a super huge start, and there are other things we are trying to get going. We’re talking about doing choir next year. This year right after spring break we started a percussion ensemble, and that I’m hoping we can be able to continue next year and have them do a couple of performances so we can get more interest in all of the programs. Any of our performances that we get to do are really helpful for us for building the program because right now we don’t have a feeder program from the elementary schools, so we actually have to gain complete interest when kids get into middle school or high school.”
Fresh off of its spring concert performance last week, the band’s next gig is June 6 for the Calaveras High School Graduation Ceremony.
Anyone interested in making tax deductible donations to the music program can do so by calling 286-7615.