If you were to ask one of the South Tama County schools Band Directors about their growing numbers, you'd be greeted by big smiles and excitement directed at the future of their groups. In the next breath, they may also bring up the issue they call a "good problem" to have, and that is a shortage of instruments to accommodate the number of students expressing interest in being involved in band.
"It really is a good problem to have.", explained Mike Carnahan, who has taught band at STC for 15 years, "Good in that the number of students who want to take part in band is growing so rapidly at the Middle School level, but the problem we have is being able to put instruments in the hands of the interested students." The school district already owns many instruments, and can purchase additional ones, but may not be able to accommodate the rapid growth in the bands.
Travis Zinnel has been brought on board at STC to help accommodate the increase in numbers and will be teaching band, general music, and choir at the STC Middle School. "I was excited to hear about the numbers in 7/8th grade band being at 73 students, as well as 5th grade coming back after a 10 year lapse. It will be so much fun to work with students, parents, and a supportive community!"
She South Tama High School Marching Band leads the 2013 Homecoming parade.
News-Herald file photos
In addition to the 73 member 7th/8th Grade Band, there are "about 50 in each of the 6th and 5th Grade Bands so far" said Carnahan. "We're looking into different ways to acquire some instruments, but I believe there are many instruments within our own community right now which may be stored away in a closet somewhere." This belief is what has led Carnahan and Zinnel to reach out to the community and begin a sort of "instrument drive" for the bands. "I have seen other school districts and communities come together in a similar way, and it can become a win for everyone involved.", said Carnahan "If we can somehow convince families who have instruments not being used to put them in the hands of these eager younger students, we benefit the programs obviously with strength in numbers, benefit the school district by getting more students involved in an activity which has been proven to improve student achievement and performance, benefit the person who donates the instrument by freeing up some space in their homes, and most importantly benefit the students themselves so they have the means to participate."
The two directors will also be gathering information on grants such as The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation and VH1 Save The Music which both donate new and used instruments through an application process. "Timing becomes the issue with most grants," Zinnel added "which we're not opposed to going through that process. We think the sooner we can get an instrument into a student's hands, the sooner they have an opportunity at success." The instruments the directors are looking for are the traditional school band instruments such as flutes, clarinets, alto saxes, trumpets, and trombones. The school already owns a good amount of the larger, more expensive instruments such as tenor and baritone saxes, bass clarinets, baritones, and tubas.
A "Beginner Band Night" has been scheduled at the STC Middle School on Tuesday, September 2 at 7 pm for the students and families who are still without instruments. Two representatives from West Music will be on hand with instruments to rent or purchase and will also be available to look over any used instruments from a community member who wishes to donate to the instrument drive. If you have an instrument you'd like to donate, you can bring it to the STC Middle School Office during regular school hours. For more information regarding the instrument drive, you are encouraged to contact either Travis Zinnel or Mike Carnahan.