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Hitting a high note: Donation brings new instruments

April 02, 2012|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

A new instrument, in and of itself, does not make a successful musician, but it can inspire some extra practicing and inject pride into a performance.

So it is at the Glendale High School music department, which received about $20,000 in new instruments and maintenance last month from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

“They are amazing,” music teacher Amy Rangel said. “Without this grant we would not be able to afford to have these brand-new instruments.”

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The Studio City-based foundation, inspired by the 1995 film “Mr. Holland’s Opus” about a school orchestra director, supports music education by donating instruments to underfunded programs. At Glendale High School, the batch included two trombones, three saxophones, two cellos, a baritone and an electric guitar.

The grant also included cash for instrument repairs, Rangel said.

Several of the instruments were in use Monday morning as the symphonic orchestra rehearsed George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which the student musicians will perform at a festival in San Francisco next week.

First cello Daniel Kim, 16, was among those to be loaned a new instrument. He said his previous cello was in terrible condition.

“I was really happy about it because the old cello was really difficult to play on,” Daniel said.

The grant from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation came at a critical moment, Rangel said. For the first time this year, she and her colleagues up and down the state were not permitted to charge students fees for instrument rentals or repairs after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sued the state alleging that such fees are against the law.

Roughly 300 students participate in the music program at Glendale High School, Rangel said, more than half of whom borrow school-owned instruments. Previously, she charged a $75 annual fee. This year, she asked for a donation, but less than a dozen students contributed.

“We ask for donations, but basically we have to fund-raise to keep the instruments in repair and to replace any,” Rangel said. “[It] is very rare that we can afford to replace any,”

Securing the foundation grant included multiple application steps that included a site visit. But Rangel said the work was worth seeing some of the program’s oldest instruments replaced.

“They have been used by kids two or three times a day for a decade or so,” Rangel said.

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