ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Last year, Round Up for Music gave School No. 58 – World of Inquiry School – $10,000 for new musical instruments. The fundraiser was a partnership between The Distillery, where patrons could “round up” their check to the cause, House of Guitars, and “Keeping The Blues Alive,” Western New York native and now world famous guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s foundation.
This year, they’re giving to three schools in need: Aquinas Institute, Rush-Henrietta Schools, and Greece Schools.
Benjamin Rybolt has been teaching at World of Inquiry Schools for four years, and loves seeing the kids develop from beginning to end.
“Seeing the light bulb for students, like ‘oh that’s how I play it,'” Rybolt says. He teaches guitar, keys, drums, and bass at the school for seventh through twelfth grade.
Before they got the $10,000 from Round Up for Music, he had a class set of guitars, prior to that, he describes it as a “Frankenstein” collection. Many of the new guitars have similar designs, helping everyone get on the same playing field, and help him accomplish his goals a teacher.
“Just having an instrument that’s easy to learn on,” Rybolt. “Those instruments as whole make it easy for students to learn be on the same page. Any art, whether it’s visual art, music, drama, theater, it teaches you what it means to be a human being, to have emotions, expressions.”
While all of the students at the school can benefit from the new instruments – as well as the “Joe Bonamassa Room” – two seniors in particular, Arabella Ashford and Edgardo Morales, find serenity in playing, and benefit from having instruments and a musical home away from home.
“It was rally cool top just have a whole class to do something I love so much,” Ashford said. “It’s like a stress reliever, it helps with my anxiety, and it just makes me happy.”
Ashford has even started playing open mic nights in the city.
Morales never had an instrument at home. He started playing ukulele before piciking up guitar, finds joy in a simple, but profound accomplishment.
“I feel creative when I play, it’s a form of peace,” Morales said. “It’s fun for me, and I also just like to recreate songs that I listen to. I learned the riff for ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica. I always wanted to learn this, I do now I do, It feels really good.”
After the 2019 Round Up for Music ends, Greece schools – along Rush-Henrietta schools and Aquinas Institute – will receive the grant. As Greece’s demographics change, the musical instrument needs along increase.
Greece Olympia band director and teacher on special assignment for the district Aaron Staebell has a colorful analogy for why new instruments are good for kids.
“Anytime you get something new, the motivation to use it is there,” Staebell. “Like, my car is old and garbage, and I don’t really get excited about getting in my car anymore.”
He says the funds can go a long way to making sure that even simple fixes to the instruments are made, and making sure that enough instruments are available.
“Stuff like flute or clarinet, stuff you can fit in your bag, always had to be rented from a music store,” Staebell said. “The more that our demographics changed in Greece, the more that’s not a possibility for a lot of families. We have so many french horns here you could build a fortress with them, but we have like two flutes.”
For these trombonists and one bassonist – a big and a traditionally “not popular” instrument – they are grateful.
“I love seeing the final product at the end of the day, the concert when you get there, you just think about how far you’ve come from the beginning,” Zachary Seitz. He’s in 11th grade. “I don’t have to buy it, and I just provided with that feeling of playing bassoon.”
“I really enjoy challenging myself,” Lucas Whittmore, 12th grade, said. “I’m really fortunate with my situation, because I have that instrument, and I even see some students here… They have struggles with their instrument because it’s in worse condition.”
“When I saw more people play the trombone, I just wanted to have that sound,” Mya Mcinnis, 9th grade, said. “It’s nice to know that the instrument is your’s, and it’s going to be safe.”
The provided instruments may help student get started and stay motivated. More importantly, they help the teachers do their jobs, which helps the students more in turn. Just ask 12th grader Cleanna Spencer.
“Getting to high school, and having Staebell as our teacher, he taught me more than just playing music and learning the history behind music,” Spencer said. “And what music really is and why people write, and what it means for other people, is why I’m still in music now.”
For Staebell, and other teachers in Greece Schools, they are working to make music education more accessible, and help students find their best selves.
“You never know who’s thing is music is going to be,” Staebell said. “If you don’t give everyone an opportunity, then you might really miss out on what their special thing is, or what their connection it going to be to school.”
You can donate at Distillery Restaurants through the 18th, and Round Up for Music will host three fundraising shows. One on the 12th at the Mt. Hope location, and two at the Henrietta and Greece locations on the 14th.