Whether or not they still practice and perform, musicians tend to be passionate about their past experiences in ensembles or as soloists, which are often among the most formative and powerful of their lives. Playing music may have been a natural outgrowth for these onetime performers, a reflection of their families' musical leanings. For others with no prior musical encouragement, it was accidental — a case of being at the right place at the right time when a special teacher, friend, or school program came along. Regardless, musicians want to share the gift of music, especially with those who don't yet know they're musical, or who can't afford to pursue it.
Enter Classical MPR's instrument-sharing program Play It Forward. It's is a way for musicians who no longer perform to donate their gently used instruments to schools and students who could not otherwise afford them. Do you have a cello gathering dust? A xylophone haunting the attic? Somewhere, there's a student or music program in need of it.
Last Friday, Classical MPR visited St. Paul's Central High School with a beautiful cache of instruments. Central is a diverse and vibrant place in MPR headquarters' own back yard. Among its many accomplishments, Central has an award-winning band program led by Matthew Oyen (an alumnus of Central, and now a teacher there). We caught word of this burgeoning program when a remarkable donation came in from a listener in Wahpeton, North Dakota, just across the Red River from Breckenridge, Minnesota. David Rasmussen, a long time music teacher, bandleader, and accomplished multi-instrumentalist there had heard of Play It Forward on Classical MPR. When he learned that had terminal cancer, he willed his extensive instrument collection to the program. Rasmussen died last August.
Among the 18 instruments Central received from the Rasmussen collection are a Gemeinhardt flute, a Yamaha baritone saxophone, a Holton French horn, and a complete Ludwig drum set. Their combined total value is approximately $35,000. It was a truly moving experience to see the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the program's students last Friday when we delivered the instruments.
Bequests, though welcome, are not the usual way donations come to Play It Forward. Most donations to the program are made directly to the school in need, via the Play it Forward website. Individuals can identify nearby music programs that may be in need of the particular instrument they are donating. Think of it as a matchmaking website for unwanted instruments and school music programs in need.
Find out more at classicalmpr.org/playitforward.