600+ musical instruments headed to Colorado schools in time for the start of the school year

Karla Walker/CPR Classical
Band teacher Rosalind Greisz picks ups instruments for her students in Ouray.

Rosalind Greisz is one of those teachers who goes above and beyond for her students. She recently drove over 600 miles roundtrip to pick up newly refurbished instruments that she'll take back to her band room in Ouray.

"This is going to be huge! It's going to be every single student having the opportunity to have music in their home."

Griesz's band program in Ouray was just one of 43 band or orchestra programs awarded refurbished instruments resulting from this year's Bringing Music to Life Instrument Drive. Teachers drove from all over the state to pick up their new instruments on a recent Saturday at the Newman Center in Denver.

"Music is culture and teaching culture is more and more important in our world. Being able to give them this opportunity is something that allows for students who aren't excited for math or aren't excited for social studies to get out and have a reason to come to school everyday," says Griesz.

Karla Walker/CPR Classical
Kearney Middle School teacher Jason Malmberg picks up violins and guitars for his music program.

This year, the Bringing Music to Life Instrument Drive collected just over a thousand instruments in its annual statewide instrument drive. Of those, 640 were repaired and matched with Title I schools, determined by at least 40% of students enrolled in free or reduced lunch, or other music programs in need. The repairs, which are made at deeply discounted rates by front-range instrument shops, cost over $77,000.

The instrument drive began at Colorado Public Radio in 2009 and then spun off into its own nonprofit headed by former CPR Classical host Steve Blatt. To date, over 7,000 instruments have been awarded to music programs. Because each instrument can potentially be used for many years, BMTL estimates that over 18,000 Colorado students have benefited from the donated instruments.

Says Blatt, "While it's called an instrument drive, instruments are the means, not the end. The program is really about transforming children's lives through music. They experience the pride and responsibility of having an instrument to care for and practice on, and then the sense of accomplishment that results from creating something with their own hands and hard work."

Karla Walker/CPR Classical
Bringing Music to Life Executive Director Steve Blatt.

Schools apply for instruments and are awarded on the basis of need. Blatt says, "We measure our success by the number of low-income children who are able to participate in band or orchestra who otherwise wouldn't be able to."

Twenty-year music teacher veteran Jason Malmberg of Kearney Middle School in Adams County likes that approach. "Not everyone in America has the access to the same things. The vast majority of kids I'm giving instruments to, this is their first instrument."

The 2023 annual Bringing Music to Life Instrument Drive will be held in early March.

Karla Walker/CPR Classical
Clarinetist Ellington Jenkins was one of the first recipients of the Bringing Music to Life Instrument Drive.
Karla Walker/CPR Classical
Teacher Lyman Bushkovski with Pueblo Academy of Arts / Instrumental Music.
Karla Walker/CPR Classical
Colorado Public Radio President & CEO Stewart Vanderwilt accepting an award of gratitude for CPR's long support of the Instrument Drive.
Karla Walker/CPR Classical
BMTL Board members drawing for one of two tuba giveaways.

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