A coalition of arts groups is calling for all of those old guitars, saxophones and trumpets gathering dust in Austin closets and garages. They probably won’t end up in the hands of the next Willie Nelson, but they very well could help keep a child focused on learning and in school.
Putting musical instruments in the hands of students who can’t afford them is an investment in their future, and the future of the Live Music Capital of the World — at least that’s the premise of the first citywide instrument drive happening this week.
Research has shown students who are involved in extracurricular activities, such as music programs, perform better in school. With a growing population of students from low-income families — a large portion of them Hispanic — more children never have a chance to participate in the arts, organizers of the drive said Wednesday.
“It’s not just about instruments — it’s about performance, and it’s about kids and their futures,” said Ryan Hutchison, director of the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, one of the groups organizing the Fall Into Music instrument drive that kicked off Wednesday. “It’s about getting them to graduate, to be successful. That’s what performance and music does.”
On Wednesday, the coalition collected more than 30 instruments, including a violin from the 1800s. Instruments donated during the drive, which lasts through Sunday, will go to nine Austin-based music education non-profits, including Anthropos Arts, the Austin Chamber Music Center, the Austin Classical Guitar Society, Austin Soundwaves, the Austin Youth Orchestra, Girls Rock Austin, Kids in a New Groove, the Round Rock Symphony Aspire program and the University of Texas Elementary School Strings.
The groups work to provide music education to children from low-income and minority families.
Dylan Jones — founder and director of Anthropos Arts, which provides free music lessons to disadvantaged students — said for the past three years, 100 percent of the high school seniors taking lessons from his group have graduated and been admitted to college.
“Those things keep kids on point,” Jones said.
Jones noted a growing divide in the city where access to music has become less easy for those who can’t afford to go to shows or music festivals. Children taking lessons from Anthropos Arts have performed at Stubb’s and the Austin Music Hall and in festivals, including the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the South by Southwest Music Festival and Pachanga Fest.
“We’re trying to cultivate that equal participation in the arts,” Jones said.
Monica Peraza, a co-founder and vice president of the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, said most of those students missing out are Hispanic.
“The Hispanic population is growing by the minute,” Peraza said. “If we don’t engage this youth and we don’t invite them to be part of the culture and the education in Austin, we are all going to regret it in 10 years.”
How to help
Instruments collected through the drive, which lasts through Sunday, will go to nine Austin-based music education nonprofits. Drop-off points are at five Austin IBC Bank locations and the KMFA studios. Monetary donations are also accepted. For more information, visit http://hispanicallianceaustin.org/fall-in-to-music.