20090805-living-0101.jpgThe great Louis Armstrong grew up in extreme poverty in New Orleans. After dropping out of school at 11, he began singing in the streets for money while occasionally getting in some trouble. A Russian-Jewish immigrant family soon loaned him money to buy his first cornet. What if that had never happened? Maybe the world would never hear his interpretations of songs like “What a Wonderful World” and “Stardust.” Needless to say, it would surely be a less wonderful world.  

In the hopes of preventing such a scenario while enriching the lives of kids in need, the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana and the Mall of Acadiana are partnering to host a musical instrument drive in conjunction with PASA’s Play It Again musical instrument recycling program.  

The benefit drive provides musical instruments to young students who would otherwise be unable to afford them on their own. The average instrument runs in the $300-$400 range. PASA seeks to remove the financial obstacles that prevent kids from participating in their school bands. “During our spring instrument drive we didn’t receive very many instruments,” says Apiyo Obala, community relations director for PASA and manager of the Play It Again program. “And I’m already being contacted by local band directors who need instruments for kids.”  

Recent studies prove that children involved in music education display superior cognitive performance and increased abilities in non-musical areas such as linguistics, mathematics and pattern recognition. The supposition is that music education “wires” children’s minds, helping create neural pathways that are the basic building blocks of the brain. Children who participate in musical activities trend toward higher performance in language and literacy compared with their non-musically trained peers.  

The Play It Again program is fairly simple. After collecting the donated instruments, Play it Again administrators send them off to get restored. When they are returned, the instruments are distributed to local band directors in the nine parish area of Acadiana. “The band directors are the frontline,” says Obala. “They contact us and let us know which students might be interested in playing in the school band but are facing some sort of financial challenge that would prevent them from purchasing the musical instrument on their own.” After meeting financial eligibility requirements and talking with school administrators, the child is given the reconditioned instrument to use during his or her tenure in the band. Once that tenure is over, the instrument becomes property of the school and is passed on to the next generation of players.  

Play It Again, which has been providing instruments for local students since its inception in 2004, will be holding its instrument drive from 1-4 p.m. on Aug. 7 and 8 at the Mall of Acadiana’s Center Court. All instruments are accepted, even drums. Anything you can think of. Donations are tax-deductible, and donors will receive written documentation of their gift. PASA needs 100 instruments including flutes, saxophones, clarinets, trumpets and trombones. It should be noted that donations are accepted year-round and can be dropped off or shipped to the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, located at 109 E. Vermilion St., Suite 101, Lafayette, LA, 70501. For more information, call Obala at 237-2787.

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