Smith River Elementary goes on holiday music tour next week

Got a musical instrument collecting dust in a closet or on a shelf? Smith River Elementary School will take it.

The Wildcat Band does its tour of Del Norte next week, playing holiday music at other elementary schools, the district office and at the Crescent City Rotary Club meeting on Dec. 19. The 80-member band starts its day performing for KCRE 94.3 FM to kick off its January instrument drive.

"Out of 80 kids in band I have two kids that own their own instruments," said director Marshall Jones. "The band's getting to a point that we've got to start looking at having enough instruments. I can't have 12 drummers. That's what I do when I don't have any more instruments left."

Jones said he'll take musical instruments no matter their condition. The school will get the instrument repaired if that's necessary. If it can't be repaired, the school will sell the instrument to a company in San Diego that can use the spare parts, Jones said, using the proceeds to purchase workable instruments.

In the past, Smith River has received more than $8,000 worth of donated musical instruments even without hold a donation drive, said Principal Paige Swan. This allows many students to join the band without having to rent an instrument.

Many students can't afford to rent musical instruments, Jones said.

"Instruments are expensive," he said. "A new saxophone is $1,400 and clarinets, flutes and trumpets, the basic instruments, run about $500 or $700."

Jones said he has a connection with a local pawn shop and has scoured garage sales for used instruments. And even though people have donated instruments in the past, this is the first time the school has reached out to the community, he said.

Students often start learning their instruments in the school's beginning band in the fifth grade before progressing to the advanced during their sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade years. Jones said he usually has the advanced band give a demonstration to his beginning students to show them what the different instruments sound like.

People willing to donate instruments can bring them to the school at 564 First St. in Smith River. They can also make arrangements for a school representative to pick up the instrument by calling 464-0370.

In addition to the band's holiday tour, it will perform at Smith River School's annual winter program Dec. 17. The program will kick off with pictures with Santa Claus starting at 6 p.m. All classes will perform starting at 7 p.m.

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