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Instrument drive hopes to restore the arts at reservation schools | Arts & Culture

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Instrument drive hopes to restore the arts at reservation schools
Arts & Culture
Instrument drive hopes to restore the arts at reservation schools


A music professor at several area universities has launched a campaign to save band classes for four reservation school districts in Idaho.

Del Hungerford realized the need for an instrument drive after directing a show for Idaho District II schools, when many students were playing with dilapidated instruments.

“The closest music store to these places is two hours away,” Hungerford said. “A lot of these kids don't have access to the Internet either, so it's hard to get instruments or reeds to them.”

As of Tuesday, 18 instruments had been donated – the goal is 50 instruments to be given to the four participating school districts: Kamiah; Kooskia, which is a part of the Clearwater Valley district; Nez Perce; and Cottonwood, which operates within the Prairie School District.

“I have a lot of students who can't afford to rent or buy an instrument,” Kamiah music director Chrissy Mizar said. “This is going to keep our program alive.”

Due to the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – a lot of schools have seen their music funding cut significantly. Hungerford said that this is a counterintuitive approach, because music helps build stronger STEM students.

“Playing music is one of the only activities we do as humans that utilizes our left and right brain at the same time,” Hungerford said, citing several studies that children who practice music are more likely to be successful students. “A lot of people are walking around with half of a brain.”

In Kamiah, Mizar says you can already see the impact of people donating instruments. She said she had students who were playing instruments they didn't have interest in, until local donors gave two trumpets and a brand-new saxophone. The local Kiwanis club also contributed $500.

“When you're in a small school that doesn't get a lot of funding, the students don't feel valued,” Mizar said. “When they see the community donating instruments and money, it makes them feel like people care, which makes them excited to play.”

Mizar hopes to add a couple flutes to her band and at least another saxophone. She is asking students to pay a $25 per year rental fee, or – if they can't afford that – she asks them to log a higher number of practice hours.

Hungerford said it's unfortunate that federal, state and local governments are cutting funding for the arts, but that people still value what music can teach young students.

“We, as a society, don't understand the importance of music and think it's a fluff subject, which doesn't acknowledge that it can be connected to so many other aspects of learning,” she said.

The drive will culminate with a Musicale on Sunday, Feb. 3 in the Haddock Performance Hall at the Lionel Hampton School of Music on the University of Idaho campus. The concert starts at 3 p.m., and will be done by 4:30.

“You won't miss too much of the Super Bowl,” Hungerford said.

In the meantime, if you would like to donate to the drive, please drop off instruments at the following locations:

  • Washington State University School of Music - Pullman, Wash.
  • The Lionel Hampton School of Music - University of Idaho, 1010 Blake Ave., Moscow, Idaho
  • Whitworth University Department of Music - Next to the Pine Bowl, Spokane, Wash.
  • Keeney Brothers Band Instrument Center - 123 E. Third St., Moscow, Idaho
  • Lewis and Clark State College Humanities Office - Lewiston, Idaho
  • Hoffman Music - 1430 N. Monroe St., Spokane, Wash.
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