CHAMPAIGN – When school bands stopped playing in areas of the south hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it wasn't for lack of emotion. It was for lack of instruments.
Through an instrument fund drive, members of the University of Illinois Student Chapter of the National Band Association are trying to bring back the music.
"They lost all their instruments through the water damage," said Brianne Shadensack, president of the Illinois chapter. "It's impossible to have a band class when you don't have instruments.
Many of the students who will receive instruments go to Hancock High School in Kiln, Miss., said University of Mississippi associate director of bands Gary Adam in a phone interview from his home in Hattiesburg.
"Because of the devastation, families with little or no income, they're unable to get instruments," Adam said. "They choose living conditions."
Since there are already many resources for food and clothing in the area, the university's school of music, with help, is trying to help put some fun and learning into the hands of young people.
"Not only are students getting to read (music) and participate in band," Adam said, "they're getting to participate in an artistic endeavor."
Through University of Mississippi contact with Peter Griffin, UI associate director of bands, UI students like Shadensack are working toward that goal, as well.
As a music education major, Shadensack was immediately interested in helping with the drive.
She feels band is a big part of American culture, and arts education is important for the development of young people – as is continuity after such disruptive events as hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The drive started Nov. 1, the beginning of American Music Month, and runs through Dec. 2, in part so students can retrieve old instruments from home when they visit their families for Thanksgiving.
People can bring any spare or out-of-use band instruments to 140 Harding Band Building at 1103 S. Sixth St., C., between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
They can also mail them to the National Band Association at the same address.
"If someone's got a trumpet or a clarinet in their attic – those are what we're after," Shadensack said. "We'll take as many as we can get."
After the collection ends, the instruments will be sent to Hattiesburg. There, local business Mississippi Music Inc. will donate cleaning and repair services for the used instruments before they will be given away.
The UI group has already received or been promised 13 instruments.
Shadensack is hoping that by Dec. 2, the drive will collect enough to fill a truck, she said. "That would be wonderful if we can get that many."
For his part, Adam is already overwhelmed by the UI Band's response.
"To wish for the music-making to continue by sharing those instruments with students in southern Mississippi is really very moving."