Georgetown-Ridge Farm officials seeking band instruments

Georgetown-Ridge Farm officials seeking band instruments

RIDGE FARM – Georgetown-Ridge Farm school officials are asking for the public's help in getting a relatively new band program off the ground.

School officials launched the program for fifth-graders at Ridge Farm Elementary School last winter. Now they're looking for donated musical instruments for some of the budding musicians.

"We're always looking for instruments," said Sara Butler McGovern, the district's band director. "We have a 60 percent poverty rate (in the elementary schools), so many of our students can't afford to buy or rent their own. Why should we deny them the opportunity to learn?"

But without the donations, McGovern said, "we will have to turn some students away."

The school badly needs saxophones and trumpets, McGovern said. It will also take coronets, French horns, flutes, clarinets, saxophones, bass guitars etc., Principal Andy Weathers added.

"We'll take anything that's still in good condition," McGovern said. "Maybe they've been sitting in a closet for years. Or maybe someone's daughter played the clarinet ... then went to college and eventually got a better one. Those beginner instruments are perfect."

Until last year, the students could not start band until the summer before they entered sixth grade at Mary Miller Junior High.

"We had many students who wanted to start but couldn't because their families were going on vacation," McGovern said. "Or they were involved in other summer activities, and their parents didn't want to overload them."

She added that in junior high, students meet in a full-band setting. They do not receive any one-on-one or small group instruction because the district has only one full-time and one part-time band teacher.

"We're trying to start them earlier and give them some individual instruction," she said. "And parents are still very involved in the fifth grade ... That just improves their chance for success. The more successful they are the more fun they'll have. They'll tend to stay with it longer."

This year, 30 to 35 fifth-graders chose to participate in band, said part-time band teacher Julie Bontjes. She said the pupils, all of whom began lessons this week, are giving up their recess to take a 20-minute weekly lesson.

On Wednesday, Bontjes met with beginning trombone players Billy Eldridge, Jennifer Lindsey and Sarah Ball for the first time. During the brief lesson, she showed them how to open their cases, put their instruments together and hold them properly, blow in their mouthpieces and change their pitch by moving their jaw.

"I'm just having too much fun," Jennifer said, after learning how to work the trombone slide.

McGovern expects some pupils will drop out of band by the sixth grade. She added others will move away.

But if they stick with it, she said, they will find that it will enrich their lives.

"Instrumental music in particular has a way of developing ... the right side of brain that other subject matters don't," she said. "There's also a character-building aspect. There's a responsibility to being in a group. The group can only be as strong as each individual ... And they're building bonds and relationships that will last them a lifetime from being in band together."

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