Ravens guard tackles getting instruments for students

Event tomorrow will raise funds for city schools

July 27, 2004|By Tim Cooke | Tim Cooke,SUN STAFF

Inside the garage of Edwin Mulitalo's Finksburg home you'll find some of the usual trappings of a professional athlete's success. An automotive indulgence, for instance: a cherry-red 1965 Chevy Impala, which has a place of honor in the Baltimore Ravens lineman's three-car space.

But next to that is something else altogether: an assortment of enough musical instruments - some new, some used, some in need of repair - to outfit a decent size band.

While Mulitalo is musical - he has played trombone, harmonica and ukulele - the instruments aren't all for him. Instead, they are scheduled to be distributed to Baltimore City public school students through Mulitalo's charity, Big Ed's Band Foundation.

Just a little over a year old, Big Ed's has had a major impact on the first school it teamed with, Frederick Douglass High in West Baltimore.

Tomorrow night, the foundation will raise funds to expand its support to other city schools in need of musical help when it hosts its second annual Big Ed's Luau at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.

The first, held in September, was a modest success. However, this year's event has sold 700 tickets, with the best seats sold out.

A 6-foot-3, 345-pound football player may seem an unusual front man to shore up school music programs, but the 29-year-old Mulitalo says music has played a big role in his life, and he wants city kids to have that experience.

"Music has always been a part of my family," Mulitalo said. "Everyone in the family always played some type of instrument."

But when school budgets are cut, he says, "the first thing that goes ... is the arts program. The foundation was set up directly to help these struggling programs."

Mulitalo says he started the foundation because he wanted to be able to give his time and charity to a specific cause. "I was donating time to a variety of charities," he said. "But I wanted to go out and be enlightened" by focusing on something that really moved him.

That enlightenment came when Mulitalo signed on to help out Douglass High. After contacting Dave Burton, the director of bands at the school, Mulitalo and his wife, Laura, went to work.

"We asked him what his needs and wants were," said Laura Mulitalo. "He had been paying out of his pocket to help keep the program alive."

"The greatest thing I saw when I visited the high school," Edwin Mulitalo said, "was the motivation of the kids to play, but they didn't have the resources."

With the help of the Mulitalos and foundation President Miles Goodman, Douglass High was able to change the situation by the end of the school year.

"Prior to working with Mulitalo's foundation, our best instruments were broken, damaged or just needed to be repaired," Burton said. "Ed provided repair for the instruments as well as [other] materials and equipment."

Burton says the help from Big Ed's Band Foundation "has been a great inspiration and motivation to these kids, to know that someone wants to help them succeed with their musical aspirations."

Aside from providing funds for repair and purchase of instruments, the foundation held a Donation Day for instruments in May. "We took in 120 instruments," Laura Mulitalo said. "We can't wait to get them out to the schools that are in need of them."

Goodman said the foundation will be sending out a survey to Baltimore City schools to see what their musical needs are.

Tomorrow's luau fund-raiser, featuring more than 20 musical acts and an appearance by the mascot from the University of Hawaii, will offer live and silent auctions, with such prizes as a 42-inch plasma television and a round of golf with Mulitalo.

The soft-spoken Mulitalo says he doesn't see his efforts as anything more than his duty to the community, a payback for the success he has had in professional football, which includes winning a Super Bowl and helping pave the way for running back Jamal Lewis' record-setting runs last year.

His foundation's work, he says, gives him satisfaction at least equal to those professional accomplishments.

"Football has been able to help me get the foundation to where it stands today," he said. "It has all been a major blessing."

Fund-raiser

What: Big Ed's Band Foundation Luau

When: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Michael's Eighth Avenue, 7220 Grayburn Drive, Glen Burnie

Admission: $65

Information: Call 443-463-2078 or visit www.bigedsband.com

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