Teens give kids the gift of music

Club collects, restores used instruments to help school expand program

February 23, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

As one of Baltimore's newest schools, the KIPP Ujima Village Academy is trying to build up its musical instrument collection.

Principal Jason Botel wants to get to the point where every pupil has the opportunity to learn an instrument, where pupils can form a full orchestra and bring instruments home.

Today, the KIPP collection will get a boost when students at Dulaney High School in Timonium deliver about 15 instruments, including flutes, clarinets and trombones, as well as sheet music, music stands and books.

Led by 17-year-old Dulaney senior and trombone player Kevin Poist, about 40 students formed a club this school year called "Dulaney Save the Music." They are collecting used instruments and raising money to restore them. The delivery to KIPP will be the club's first.

Club members plan to keep donating to KIPP until it has what it needs, then continue their efforts at other schools, Poist said. The club has collected about 35 instruments, including a piano and a base guitar, to be distributed after restoration, and it has a few dozen outstanding pledges.

KIPP was the kind of school the club was looking for, Poist said: It doesn't have enough instruments, but it has a music teacher to ensure that pupils make good use of the equipment.

KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, opened in 2002 on Greenspring Avenue, one of 31 public schools nationwide run by a San Francisco-based nonprofit group. It has 146 fifth- and sixth-grade pupils, with plans to add seventh- and eighth-grade classes over the next two years for a total enrollment of 320.

The school used start-up money to buy recorders for all 146 pupils, 36 clarinets, 20 trumpets and a handful of trombones, baritones, flutes and other instruments. But with the fiscal crisis facing the Baltimore City school system, it is unable to buy more instruments for the growing school, Botel said.

Pupils receive 90 minutes of music instruction a week, but plans are in the works to give next year's seventh-graders daily music lessons, Botel said.

KIPP schools have gained national attention for their success educating children from low-income families. In addition to an extended school day, the schools generally feature music programs. Botel said he hopes his school can emulate the orchestras at KIPP schools in Washington and the Bronx, N.Y.

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