Musical Instrument Drive Inspired By Student's Story


MONROE, La. (AP) — Isaiah Jones didn't know that talking about his struggle to find a musical instrument could inspire people to help other students.

Jones, 18, was active at Strauss Theatre when his director asked him to do an interview with the Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana. He told Community Development Coordinator Danielle Kelley Tolbird about being in the band at Carroll High School and how he wished there was more funding for the arts.

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"I played flute, and the flute I played — I had to put it together from… it was a whole bunch of different flutes, and I had to, like, get different parts from each flute to make one that worked and that was in tune and everything," Jones said. "That's just because there's not enough focus in the music. There's always more focus in sports."

Arts Council board member Debora Colvin was moved by his story, and a few weeks ago, Jones got a text telling him that the Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana is hosting an instrument drive inspired by him.

"I was like, dang, yeah, that's amazing because we really need that help in our school," Jones said. Other schools with better funding don't have the same issues. "I'm glad she came through with this."

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"Let's Band Together!" runs through Aug. 17. Anyone with a new or used musical instrument is encouraged to donate it at one of three drop-off sites in Ouachita Parish: the main branch of the Ouachita Parish Library, Matt's Music or the Ouachita Valley Branch Library.

Jones said his school's band program gets help from additional fundraisers. Band directors pay out of pocket to get instruments repaired and help the students raise money.

Jones played in band in junior high and for three years of high school. During Jones' senior year, he had a job and didn't have time for extracurricular activities.

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That didn't stop him from becoming Carroll's Student of the Year.

He plans to attend Louisiana State University Honors College in the fall and major in computer science, and he's hoping to audition for the band in the spring semester after he's acclimated to his course schedule.

"His will and determination to study the arts inspired me, and made me realize that too many of us take arts education for granted," Colvin said. "How many of us have an old saxophone or trumpet in the closet? If you haven't picked it up in a few years, why not give the gift of music to a local student who might not have the chance to be in the marching band otherwise?"

There's not enough funding to support all programs, Jones said, so third parties could help kids in bands that need help.

"I loved playing clarinet in high school. I learned how to play an instrument, but I also learned how to work as part of a team, how to improvise, and how to problem solve," said Arts Council President/CEO Barry C. Stevens. "Generally speaking, band programs are vastly underfunded. Kids who want to play in the band need access to instruments, and the Arts Council is trying to help."

Matt's Music will inspect and repair donated instruments, and MidCity Storage donated a climate-controlled unit to store them in. Instruments will be donated to band programs based on need and impact, as indicated by band directors at participating high schools in the Monroe City and Ouachita Parish school systems.

"If you're real passionate about music and you have a passion for kids who like music, that would be a perfect reason to donate," Jones said.

– by Bonnie Bolden, AP reporter

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