Emma Halsey could not help but beam with excitement on Friday afternoon.The Hampton Bays Elementary School fourth-grader learned earlier that day that she could finally learn to play the clarinet thanks to the Atlanta-based Gift of Music Foundation, which donated 14 refurbished instruments to her school.
If not for the donation, Emma’s parents would have had to make the difficult decision of renting an instrument for their daughter—at an estimated cost of $300 per year—so she could pursue her musical dreams. Now, thanks to the donation, Emma can instead focus on practicing with her clarinet so she can perform with the school band.
“I think it will be really exciting to play the clarinet,” said Emma, who noted that she intends to play all the way through college and possibly beyond. “I think I’m going to stay with it until college because it will be lots of fun.”
Approximately 65 percent of the district’s fourth-graders are involved with the school band and the district, as a whole, simply does not own enough instruments to accommodate all of its students, according to Hampton Bays Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen. As a result, many students with a serious interest in the musical arts
must either buy their own instruments or rent them an annual basis.
The resulting financial strain placed on some families is what inspired Carolanne Mazur, a middle school music teacher, to pen a letter this past July to the Georgia-based foundation asking for a donation. About one month later, Chris Monroe, executive director and founder of the Gift of Music Foundation, responded to Ms. Mazur stating that his foundation would donate 14 refurbished instruments to the school—items valued at about $3,000 combined.
“They came all the way from Georgia this morning to deliver the instruments,” Ms. Mazur said on Friday. “It was really great.”
The foundation donated six flutes, two trombones, four trumpets and one clarinet. Officials are also donating a bassoon, which will arrive at a later date.
“We made a decision at the foundation and said, ‘Yeah, let’s help them out,’” Mr. Monroe said.
He noted that Ms. Mazur’s letter explained the socioeconomical issues that were preventing the elementary school from acquiring more instruments for its students; Ms. Monroe said that information helped his group come to the decision to make the donation.
Emma and six of her classmates met Mr. Monroe, Joseph Steiner, owner and executive director of Play It Right Music in Babylon, and John Benedetti, executive assistant for Play It Right Music, near the flagpole outside of Hampton Bays Elementary School on Friday afternoon where the men presented them with their newly refurbished instruments.
The students took the instruments from their cases, held them, and blew into them for the first time.
Stephanie Parriles, a fourth-grader, said she is excited to start learning to play the flute using one of the donated instruments. When asked to join the band, she said she decided on her own that her instrument of choice would be the flute.
“I decided I might be good at it,” Stephanie said, explaining her decision. “I thought it was interesting that I could play it.”
One of her classmates, Justin Contreras Morocho, was equally excited to get the opportunity to learn an instrument for the first time. “I thought it would be fun to play,” Justin said. “It looked interesting.”
The students began practicing with their new instruments for the first time this week in the music room at the Hampton Bays Middle School that sits next door to the elementary school. The students will receive lessons there until renovations are finished next month on a new multi-purpose room at the elementary school.