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Giving the gift of music to schools
Photo courtesy: B. Rivera

By Joshua Pilkington

Writer’s Note: With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, the stress of the holiday shopping season is mitigating, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still unique gifts to give. This holiday season, La Vida Latina is taking an in-depth look at alternative ways to give in 2017. In part three of our series we look into the impact donated musical instruments have on the schools and bands they’re donated to.

Part III of V

Bringing Music to Life helps Colorado’s students enjoy the pleasure of music

Music programs in schools are in tough shape. According to James Catterall, professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, the decline in funding and interest have been noticeable for some time.

“The story has played out with some regularity for decades - economies boom and bust, school budgets get squeezed and music and the other arts take the first hits,” he said. “You don’t need research or investigative journalism to know that things are in tough shape.”

That rings true in Colorado as well. Rudy Bustos, the director of the Adams City High School Mariachi Program, pointed out budget restraints as one of the main obstacles to overcome at his program.

“Let’s get it back to its roots,” Bustos said of his primary focus after taking over the school’s once-prominent mariachi program two years ago. “There used to be a lot of kids involved with it and I’m dealing with about a dozen kids. The program has to be brought back to its luster, to the prominence it had at one time and that takes money.”

One of the best ways to contribute is through Bringing Music to Life, which hosts an annual Instrument Drive in March, but also accepts instrument and monetary donations throughout the year.

The majority of the instruments donated go to Title One Colorado schools that have underfunded music education programs. Though Bringing Music to Life requests “slightly used” instruments, the program utilizes the knowledge of the Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology (CIOMIT) to repair donated instruments at a reduced cost to the non-profit.

“Fourteen years ago we had an orchestra program here at Northglenn Middle School,” said Katrina Proctor, former choir and orchestra director at Northglenn Middle School in a Bringing Music to Life promotional video. “After teachers left and the district lowered a little bit of our funding, we had to redistribute our instruments and ended up losing the program.”

Northglenn Middle School began to rebuild the program and thanks to donated instruments received from Bringing Music to Life, it boasts four band offerings and one jazz ensemble course.

“If I could talk to those people who are donating, I would just say, ‘you’re changing lives,’” Proctor said. “It’s empowering students, it’s empowering teachers, it’s empowering schools.”

According to Catterall, the effects of music on education from a young age, are apparent in the classroom as well.

“Music programs show effects on student motivation,” he said. “Students tend to enjoy music and feel a sense of accomplishment when they become proficient with a musical instrument and with ensemble performances.”

He added that students can also discover a sense of “cultural pride and identification that can result from increasing awareness of culturally embedded music traditions.”

Last year Bringing Music to Life received 520 instruments worth more than $200,000 and redistributed them to 40 Colorado schools. Since the drives began, more than 3,000 instruments totaling over $1 million have been awarded to elementary, middle and high schools in Colorado.

For more information on donation centers in Metro Denver and around Colorado, visit Those who do not have instruments to donate can also send monetary donations to the Bringing Music to Life Repair Fund.





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