Boys and Girls Club asks for used instruments for fine arts program

People can donate instruments Feb. 28 from 11-5p.m. at Valley View Mall

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse is teaming up with local organizations to create a fine arts program at the club.

The club sees around 500 to 600 students a day and provides a variety of activities, but the club director, Mike Desmond, believes something is missing.

The La Crosse School District is already so vast when it comes to opportunities for kids, the Boys and Girls Club wants to mimic that.         

The district provides free instruments to certain kids at school so they can participate in band or orchestra. 

By creating a fine arts program, Desmond hopes to extend that opportunity to more students at the club after school.

Chia Mee Yang is a seventh grader at Lincoln Middle School in La Crosse.

“I am in student council. I have basketball every night. I am also in drama club and show choir,” said Yang.

But no matter how busy she is, she makes time for her music.

“I feel really happy. It takes me away from reality,” said Yang. “I was really amazed that just four strings can make a lot of notes and sounds.”

Yang started playing violin in fourth grade after getting a free instrument from school

“I am thankful for that, because it is convenient,” said Yang.

If it wasn’t for the school, Yang doesn’t think she would have ever tried the violin.

“My parents they don’t speak English,” said Yang. “If I didn’t have that free instrument then I would have to go to this place and this place, which isn’t easy.”

“We have had numerous students whose parents work late and can’t get to a store when it’s open. Sometimes it’s a hassle, and they say I am not going to do this,” said Randy Mastin, orchestra director at Lincoln Middle School.

In an effort to make sure all kids get the same opportunity as Yang, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse is creating a fine arts program.

“We’ve never had one in the history of the boys and girls club,” said Desmond.

“Mike said to me one time, he said, ‘You know what? I want something for all the kids at the boys and girls club because not all kids are athletes.’ He wants something for all of them, and music is something that all kids can pick up and do,” said Tracy Fell, the executive director of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.

Desmond would like to create an after-school string program for the kids so he turned to the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra for help.

“They don’t have instruments. He doesn’t have the logistic possibilities of putting this together. Well, this is something that we can do for you,” said Fell.

Both organizations, along with the La Crosse School District, created an event called “Play It Forward,” where they are asking people in the community to donate instruments.

“People will probably have instruments at home, particularly string instruments at home, that they are not using anymore. They have no need for anymore and they can donate those at the event and get those into hands of some kids who my someday be a violinist, who knows,” said Desmond.

For Yang, the opportunity to use a free instrument changed her life.

“When I grow up, I want to become a musician and just keep on,” said Yang.

And Mastin said “Play It Forward” could change someone else’s life, too.

“Sometimes, just having something there and available makes the kids say, ‘Hey, I would like to try this,’ and maybe opens up a whole new avenue or career,” said Mastin.

All musical instruments will be collected at the drive. Organizers prefer gently-used instruments that are still in working conditions, but they will accept broken ones to use for parts.         

A portion of the string instruments collected will be taken to the boys and girls club while other band instruments will be given to the La Crosse School District.

The ‘Play It Forward’ instrument drive is Saturday, Feb. 28 at Valley View Mall from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If can’t make it, you can drop off your instrument at the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra’s office on Main street at any time.