Skidmore College is about to impact the lives of a number of young music students up north in the Ticonderoga region. saratoga living has learned that the local liberal arts college will host an inaugural “Be Instrumental” instrument drive at the college’s Arthur Zankel Music Center from Wednesday, January 22 to Saturday, February 8. During that time period, volunteers at Skidmore will accept any used band instruments—brass, woodwind and percussion instruments—which will ultimately be donated to the Ticonderoga Elementary School’s student band program.
“This whole idea started when my ten year old came home from band [practice] and said that some kids were playing on plastic instruments,” says Evan Mack, a Skidmore professor and local composer, who’s spearheading the college’s instrument drive early next year. Mack recently relocated to the Ticonderoga area with his family and was shocked to learn that many students in the area couldn’t even afford to rent instruments. (According to US Census data, more than 15 percent of Ticonderoga’s population lives below the federal poverty level, higher than the national average.) Faced with its own budgetary constraints, Ticonderoga Elementary had to fall back on stocking its music program with inexpensive, plastic instruments. “It makes sense, financially, why [the school] had to do it,” says Mack. “But what’s the likelihood of playing a broken or plastic instrument and saying, ‘I want to be a trumpeter’?”
Mack knows all about the power of a good, solid music education. As a classical composer, he’s composed large-scale orchestral works, operas, librettos and premiered some with local talent, such as the newly Grammy-nominated Albany Symphony and its conductor David Alan Miller. Leaning on his connections at Skidmore, Mack’s hoping that people in the Saratoga region will come through with instrument donations. “Our school is an embarrassment of riches,” says Mack. “I encounter lots of students who played in a band program [in high school] but want to be neuroscience majors, so they must have an instrument lying around gathering dust.”
Skidmore students will actually have the first three days of the drive, January 22-24, to raid their closets in search of any long-neglected instruments. Mack says that some Skidmore students have taken the initiative and are already organizing a “Band-Aid” college band concert where the price of admission will be an instrument donation. After the first three days of the drive, there will be three Saturday drop-off dates at Zankel’s box office (January 25, February 1 and February 8), during which anyone can donate an old or gently used band instrument (broken instruments, however, will not be accepted). Saratoga Guitar and Cole’s Woodwind Shop will clean and prep the instruments before being sending them north to Ticonderoga.
If the drive receives a surplus of instruments, Mack will look to donate band wares to other schools in the region. And the local composer already has designs to launch the drive again, every four to five years, once new students arrive at Skidmore. “I’m hoping one day of maybe even getting some of my colleagues to give master classes and performances up in Ticonderoga,” says Mack. “That’s [my] personal dream.”