When Marcus Pimpleton returned to the Denny Middle School band room to teach music, the trombone he played as a Denny student was still...
When Marcus Pimpleton returned to the Denny Middle School band room to teach music, the trombone he played as a Denny student was still there.
A frayed piece of masking tape on its case still bore his name. Pimpleton continued to play trombone in college, where he was a drum major in the Husky Marching Band. He’d taken up trombone in middle school because his family couldn’t afford the flute he wanted to play, and the school didn’t have any flutes to lend him.
As Denny’s band director for the past six years, Pimpleton, 31, often recruits students in the same position. The school is short of flutes, clarinets and saxophones, so he steers kids toward tubas and trombones. When he runs out of instruments, he stops recruiting.
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“I think that the ability to afford an instrument impacts who is able to participate,” he said.
Enter David Endicott, of the Rotary Clubs of Seattle. Endicott rediscovered his passion for the tuba a couple of years ago. It was the second time music changed his life. As a troubled 10-year-old, he was straightened out by a teacher who persuaded him to join the band.
Today he’s helping lead a program to make the same thing possible for low-income kids in Seattle.
Rotary Music4Life will collect donated instruments and lend them to students in need, starting with fourth- and fifth-graders. The program wants to collect 1,200 instruments over the next two years, part of a $600,000 fundraising goal. Some donated money will buy instruments, and some will pay to maintain the instruments and buy supplies.
It costs between $15 and $50 a month to rent an instrument from a local music store. On top of that, some instruments require reeds, strings and other supplies. Then there’s the cost of music stands and private lessons.
The Rotary Club effort ties into a larger push in Seattle Public Schools to expand instrumental music. Earlier this year, the district hired an instrumental-music coach, Pamela Ivezic. The last time someone held that position was in 1975.
“Really, what we’re doing is we are working to restore music in Seattle,” said Carri Campbell, the district’s visual- and performing-arts manager.
Although some schools in the district are known for their jazz and choral programs, Seattle doesn’t enjoy as good a national reputation for music education as it once did, Campbell said. Today, about 36 percent of elementary-age students participate in instrumental music. Music4Life wants to see that rise to 50 percent.
The district pays for an hour of instrumental music, once a week, for fourth- and fifth-graders. Many schools raise money to pay for additional musical instruction in elementary school.
Shoreline Public Schools relies on donations to provide some of its instruments. About 90 percent of fifth- and sixth-graders participate in either band or orchestra there, spokesman Craig Degginger said. In the Federal Way district, budget cuts claimed elementary instrumental music altogether a couple of years ago, said spokeswoman Diane Turner.
“From a broad-based support for music, they [Seattle] haven’t touched as many students as they used to, and both the Seattle schools and the city of Seattle want to stimulate that and produce a rebirth of arts in the community,” said Mike Bujnowski, president of the board of the Northwest Youth Music Association, the nonprofit that will own and distribute the donated instruments.
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org