Music can change lives and allow opportunities to children as an outlet and give them a sense of belonging.
So when a child wants to participate in band or orchestra in school, but can’t because their family cannot afford to buy them an instrument, that’s where Music4Life comes in.
Music4Life is a nonprofit that was started in 2007 by David Endicott. Its mission is to help students in need obtain musical instruments when they or their family can’t afford to provide them themselves, according to Gary Milligan, Music4Life program coordinator.
The idea is people who have unused instruments can donate them to Music4Life.
Milligan said Endicott first started this program in the Seattle School District, and has been adding school districts ever since.
As of 2018, the Kent School District is taking part in the program.
“This is a great day for the Kent community because we know the Kent School District only has about half of the instruments that are needed by the students in the school district,” Milligan said. “This is going to help fill that need in Kent just as it has in other communities. It’s an exciting day because there will be students who could never in a million years afford a musical instrument, and some of these students are going to have musical instruments now.”
To determine what district Endicott reaches out to participate in Music4Life, he starts with the districts that have the highest percentage of subsidized lunch programs, which indicates there are more students in need, according to Milligan.
Then he has to determine if the district is dedicated to being involved.
“Because getting involved also means the district has to start a booster club. So there has to be community minded people who are willing to go out and raise money to have the instruments repaired and then cover other costs of operating Music4Life,” he said.
“It doesn’t cost a dime to the school district, but there has to be a booster club to raise money to fund the program. The program is funded largely through these booster clubs. Music4Life is also funded through corporate donations and grants and so forth,” Milligan continued.
According to a press release from Music4Life, initial funding has been received from the Rotary Club of Kent and Kent Resident John Oliver. Other funds have been pledged by the Kent Arts Commission and Kent Sunrise Rotary.
The release continued stating the Kent Music4Life Booster Club, led by Coldwell Banker Bain Broker Linda Mackintosh, is seeking other funding to sustain the program.
While funding is an important aspect to the program, receiving instruments and knowing how to donate them is also important.
Donors must fill out a donor form, which has their contact information on it, the type of instrument and then at the bottom of the form, there are lists of school districts that the donor can donate to. Milligan said if the person does not want to donate to a particular district, they can check “Send it where the greatest need is.”
“Then the donor is tasked with taking that instruments to one of the vendor partners, such as Ted Brown Music or Kennelly Keys or Hammond Ashley, local vendors who have partnered. Then (vendors) do the assessment of the instrument,” Milligan said.
He said if a person is unable to bring the instrument to one of the vendors, he or someone else from Music4Life will try to make time to go pick up the instrument to make sure it reaches the vendor.
Once at the vendors, the employees will assess and then clean and repair each instrument as needed.
Milligan said vendors make sure they aren’t charging more to fix the instrument than what it is worth.
According to Stephanie Howe, vice president and executive director of nonprofit outreach of Ted Brown Music, people come in at least weekly to donate their instruments to Music4Life.
Once the assessment is done, the vendors will hold onto the instruments until Endicott can distribute them to the schools.
Milligan said vendors have been in existence for most of the time Music4Life has been established. The program is still trying to add new partners as time goes on.
When an instrument is donated to a district, Milligan said it is a loan and the district does not own the instruments rather Music4Life does.
“When these instruments go to school districts they go legally and technically on a long-term loan basis to the school district. So because of laws in the state about this sort of thing, we can’t donate it, the school district can’t own it. Music4Life owns the instruments and then loans them to school districts for long-term basis,” he explained.
While it is a loan, the positive aspect is that students who stay in the district long-term can keep those instruments for as long as they’re in the district, Milligan said.
For instance, if a middle school student decides to continue with their band classes into high school, as long as that high school is within the same district, that student can keep that instrument up until they graduate.
So far, Milligan said the Kent School District has received about 11 musical instruments, if not more than that.
He said the more funds the Kent Music4Life Booster Club can raise, the more instruments can be repaired, which means the more instruments can be loaned to the Kent School District.
Last year, Milligan said there were well over 300 instruments sent out to Music4Life affiliated districts.
“It goes out in accordance to how much fundraising the booster club has done, that determines the number of instrument value they will receive,” he explained. “If a booster club raises let’s say $5,000, typically they get about two and half to three times that, or possibly more in instrument value back to the school district.”
Milligan said students who participate in music do better in life, which is why there is a need for instruments, to ensure every student has a chance to play an instrument even if their family can’t afford to provide them with one.
“Research has shown that students who participate in instrumental music perform at a much higher level in virtually any school subject. And research has shown students who participate in instrumental music learn very desirable qualities like discipline, teamwork and you might say a greater cultural awareness of their culture and other cultures,” he said.
To donate an instrument to Music4Life go to music4life.org/about-music4life/donate-now.