DOBSON — Steve Boone sees a lot from his vantage point as the school resource officer at Central Middle School.
During an orientation last year, he saw a rising sixth-grader pick up a trumpet in the band room and test it out.
“He made a fantastic sound with it,” the Surry County deputy sheriff said. “It really shocked me how he could make it sing.”
“He told his mom, ‘I really want to play this.’ She picked up the piece of paper with the prices on it, she looked at him and said, ‘Son, I’m sorry, I can’t afford it,’” Boone recalled. “When I heard her say that, that set a spark.”
He said to himself, “That will never happen again.”
Boone, vice president of the band booster club, set about putting together Band 4 Kids, a volunteer-run non-profit aimed at removing the financial barrier to kids who want to join the school band.
“So many people are hurting now for everything. They just don’t have the money for this,” he said. “We want these kids to be able to come and enjoy music, learn something and not be hindered by money.”
Band 4 Kids provides musical instruments to students in the Central Middle and Surry Central High School band programs by collecting donated used instruments and repairing them if needed.
Monetary donations are used to purchase instruments and for repair supplies.
“It doesn’t matter that they’re broken or not. We’ll take them,” he said.
Boone told the county Board of Education that he took three broken clarinets and managed to make one useful instrument out of the parts.
The instruments are provided to the school band programs to use for free and remain the property of Band 4 Kids, which is operating as a charitable organization with an IRS identification number and working towards eventually obtaining 501(c)3 status.
“One hundred percent of your tax-deductible donation goes directly to the kids,” Boone said.
Jordan Martin, the band instructor for both schools, said Boone had approached him and asked if such an organization would be useful.
“I said absolutely,” Martin said.
The affordability of the instruments is “a stigma for some,” Martin said. “Band 4 Kids really does open that door for a lot of other students.”
The sixth grade band started out the school year with about 13 kids. In January, “Band 4 Kids” flyers went home with every student, and Martin re-recruited for the band; the number of students in the band about doubled.
In February, nine Band 4 Kids instruments were put into circulation for student use.
The band instructor said one way the organization has really been effective has been providing instruments for students who were sharing school-supplied instruments.
For example, a child in the sixth or seventh grade would play the instrument during class then put it back for an eighth-grader to play later that day.
“Now, these kids can take them home and get better with it,” Martin said, adding that the donations coming in from the community allows the band’s already scant funding to be redirected to getting instructors or new music, or for purchasing bigger instruments as opposed to those that should be standard.
The organization is pushing hard now to collect instruments that will be repaired and ready to go for when the new school year starts in August.
“We’re hoping to partner with businesses to help us financially,” said Boone, who personally repairs the instruments.
Though he had never done those types of repairs before, the mechanically minded deputy enjoys tinkering and loves working with metals.
“It wasn’t a far stretch from what I already knew,” he said, adding that he’s made use of information and feedback from experienced technicians that’s readily available online.
Boone, who has learned to play the saxophone and the drums, said he got interested in music when his now college-aged daughter started playing saxophone in the Central Middle School band.
His son, an eighth-grader at the middle school, plays the drums on the high school drum line.
The county school board gave Band 4 Kids an out-of-service Surry Central music trailer to fix up and use as a mobile repair shop at different schools and events.
Though he’s seen how band involvement benefited his own children, working for many years in the school system has allowed Boone to see it benefit others in the big picture sense.
“I see the kids, see their needs,” he said, mentioning that music uses both sides of the brain and that research has shown that participation in a band program helps improve students’ academic performance.
“We have so many at-risk kids with no structure at home. Band gives them structure,” he said. “I’ve known several kids had they not been in the band, I’m not sure what they would have been into, but it wouldn’t have been good. They’ve gone on and graduated and done well.”
For more information about Band for Kids, visit the organization’s Facebook page, email [email protected] or call 336-755-1675.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.