[JPL] Group brings music to city schools

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Tue Jan 13 07:44:55 EST 2009

Yale Daily News
Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Group brings music to city schools
By Frances Sawyer
Staff Reporter

When Austin Kase ¹11 was a high school student in New Jersey, he noticed the
dearth of musical instruments at public schools. To fill the void, he
launched Share the Music, a program that accepts donated instruments and
places them in music classrooms.

Recently, Share the Music became an official undergraduate organization,
collaborating with other Yale groups, such as the Class of ¹57 Music
Education Project, to reinvigorate the halls of New Haven schools with the
sound of music. And after receiving a $600 Sudler Grant from the Office of
Masters, the group set out to make a documentary that tells the story from
the group¹s inception and includes interviews of teachers, students and
donors in the program. The theme, members interviewed said, is to express
why music education is important.

³Music education is so vital,² Naomi Woo ¹12, one of the students
spearheading Yale¹s involvement with Kase, said. ³Whenever I¹m stressed, I
play the piano. Whenever I have a lot of emotion, I play the piano. It¹s a
really great feeling and it¹s a really great thing to be able to do.²

According to Saranya Sethuraman ¹11, the treasurer and trombonist of the
group, the film is part of their strategy to grow the program beyond its
current size. She hopes to plan several screenings across the country to
kick-start the opening of new branches at other high schools and colleges.

³It¹s part of our raising awareness,² Sethuraman said. ³Austin and I both
had experience with filming, and we were both comfortable with editing and
shooting. It is great way to reach out to a lot of people.²

So far the program has given away over 100 instruments; the Yale branch
donated an additional 20 during the holiday season.

³There are all sorts of people with instruments in their closets,² Kase
said. ³Share the Music is a good way to put those instruments back to work.²

>From an elderly Korean man with a dusty trumpet left over from the heyday of
the big band era to a professional xylophone player who stopped playing to
raise a family, there have been stories of music loved and lost, Share the
Music members recalled. At the same time, some donors are merely parents who
bought instruments for their children who stopped playing after a year or

The documentary focused on these stories, as well as the reception of the
instruments in the classrooms, pairing the act of giving with its effects.

The group is currently working with three school band programs in the New
Haven area ‹ at Wexler-Grant, Truman Elementary School and the Cooperative
Arts High School ­ and Kase said they are thrilled to be included in this
early phase of the project.

³They are happy to see the community taking interest in their kids,² Kase

Yet in New Haven, Kase explains, the supply of instruments cannot meet the

In order to overcome the odds, the group is also collaborating with the Yale
School of Music Class of ¹57 Music Education Project. John Miller, the
project manager of the Music Education Project, said working with Share the
Music has opened up new possibilities for his group.

When Share the Music donates instruments to schools, the Music Education
Project is able to pair the recipients of those instruments with School of
Music musicians who can then provide lessons and host concerts, directly
pinpointing the instruments received.

³Our goals are the same,² Miller said. ³There is this huge web of
collaboration within Yale and New Haven, helping students realize their

Both alone and within this collaboration, Share the Music leaders said they
have made a tangible difference despite the odds. For instance, one of the
New Haven schools had six students who wanted to learn to play the flute,
but there were none available to them. Share the Music found flutes for all
the students, and now the School of Music interns are teaching those
students how to use their instruments and master their art.

³We want to spread it as far and as wide as we can,² Kase said.

With help from the Sudler grant, that idea is closer to a reality. Perhaps,
he said, the film will inspire students to dig through their basements for
their own dusty trombones.

Kase plans to showcase the film in the residential college theaters after
spring break. 

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