Community effort adds new instruments to Mounds View Schools

In January, Mark Bobnick and Allie Blake of Schmitt Music presented 16 music instruments to Mounds View Public Schools district staff, and band and orchestra students from Chippewa and Highview middle schools. These instruments were given as a result of the Schmitt Music Challenge in partnership with Mounds View Public Schools Education Foundation (MVSEF). Front to back, left to right: Brita DePhillips, Abigail Casey, Brody Stefanik, Jordan Williams, Allie Blake of Schmitt Music; Gigi Goligowski, Ann Claridge of the MVSEF Board of Directors, Isaiah Vazquez-Matze, Band Director and Music Coordinator Andy Schmidt, Lydia Nau, Mark Bobnick of Schmidt Music, Chippewa Band Instructor Paul Gronert, Graham Hutchcroft and Superintendent Chris Lennox.

Schmitt Music delivered 16 new instruments to Mounds View Public Schools last month as part of the Schmitt Music Challenge, a community fundraiser. 

This challenge was set in place last fall during Rock the School House, the annual fundraising event for the Mounds View Schools Education Foundation (MVSEF). Schmitt Music challenged attendees and foundation supporters to raise funds in exchange for new instruments. For every $5,000 raised by the foundation, Schmitt Music donated a new instrument to Mounds View Public Schools. And when Rock the School House raised more than $80,000 last fall, the challenge was met and a total of 16 instruments were donated.

“This was really an outstanding opportunity for the instrumental music programs,” said Paul Gronert, band director at Chippewa Middle School.  He approached the team at Schmitt Music about partnering with the district to further fundraising efforts. He brought the partnership to the attention of MVSEF Executive Director Heather Meyer, and a collaboration was born.

The instruments will enhance the district’s school-owned instrument program, which makes participating in band or orchestra more affordable for students and their families. 

“One initiative supported by the foundation is the school-owned instrument program,” Meyer explained. “Increased access to school-owned musical instruments and subsidized rental costs is a key mission and, through the foundation’s support, we want to ensure that band and orchestra is accessible to all students in our schools.” 

According to Gronert, 30-40 percent of students in band and orchestra districtwide play school-owned instruments. Some of that group are students who choose to play a larger instrument like a tuba, French horn or string bass, which tend to be more costly to buy or rent from elsewhere. All students who want to play an instrument have access to one at a Mounds View Public School, thanks to the school-owned instrument program.

Currently, 46 percent of students in fourth through 12th grade are participating in music programs. More than 1,500 students play in the orchestra and more than 1,300 students play in band. “These numbers are at a 10-year high and are projected to continue to grow over at least the next eight years,” Gronert said. “In the past 10 years, we have added 750 students to our instrumental music programs.”

Due to the increased interest in music, Mounds View Public Schools music programs have been collecting donated instruments for several years. “The great news is that many of the instruments are usable and with a little TLC (tender loving care), and they go right into our inventories. The not-so-great news is that the cost to repair the instruments in really bad shape is more than they’re worth.”

The new instruments from Schmitt Music through the MVSEF and community donors will bring brand new instruments to the collection.

“Any student who wants to play an instrument can play, and we make it happen,” Gronert said.  “But it’s not always with a great instrument. Our mission is to make it happen with a great instrument. Thanks to the partnership of Schmitt Music and the foundation, these 16 instruments immediately impact the quality of our program.”

The instruments include flutes, clarinets, violins, alto and tenor saxophones, xylophones, trumpets and trombones.

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