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UPDATED: Bring on the strings: Anaheim school district music program needs instruments

Anaheim Orchestra

Brian Brooks/Anaheim City School District

Anaheim City School District elementary students test out their instruments. Organizers of the new orchestra program estimate that the district still needs about 700 instruments to be fully stocked.

Anaheim Orchestra

Mary Plummer/KPCC

Newly purchased instruments for Anaheim City School District's new orchestra program sit in the district's supply warehouse in Anaheim.

Anaheim Orchestra

Mary Plummer/KPCC

Music teacher Chad Jackson, from the OC Symphony, packed his car full of violins and violas to deliver to Olive Elementary School in Anaheim City School District.

Anaheim Orchestra

Brian Brooks/Anaheim City School District

A group of students at Anaheim City School District practice music during the district's new after school orchestra program. Until this year, school officials say the district didn't own a single musical instrument.


Update: Since this story was first published, Anaheim City School District has raised almost $2,000 for the orchestra program. About 100 instruments have been donated since the program began - organizers estimate that the district still needs 700 instruments to fully supply the 1,300 students who have signed up to learn music so far.

Anaheim City School District is home to more than 19,000 K through sixth graders, but until this year, the school district didn't own a single musical instrument. 

To fix that, it plans to launch an online fundraising campaign through Kickstarter in partnership with the Orange County Symphony to raise money for instruments. It wants to raise at least $100,000 and as much as $150,000 - what it estimates it would cost to create a sustainable orchestra program.

This year, the district started a new after school program with the symphony, to provide music instruction for 1,300 students in 14 schools. Superintendent Linda Wagner said when the district told parents they were starting musical instruction this year, interest was huge.

Then came the stumbling block. With no instruments of their own, administrators asked parents to rent or purchase them for their children to participate. Few were able to do so. Some students have been showing up to classes for weeks empty-handed.

Eighty-five percent of students in the district receive free or reduced lunches. Officials estimate 70 percent of the students who are participating in the music program come from families who can't afford to purchase instruments.

"I was really concerned," Wagner said, but not surprised. This is the fourth district she's led where arts programming has needed help. "Everywhere I've gone arts has really been wiped out."

The district has secured a $10,000 donation from Turner Construction that it plans to use to buy instruments - but it's not nearly enough. 

As part of the partnership, members of the symphony are working for a reduced fee of $25 a day to teach brass, string, woodwinds and percussion four days a week - students pick an instrument and receive one day of instruction. 

The symphony is also providing students and their families with free tickets and parking to all of its 2013-2014 concerts. 

Thursday, school leaders are announcing plans to expand the program to all of the district's 24 schools and purchase instruments. 

"The students who will benefit from these instruments have never even held them," Wagner said. 

To stay updated on this story, check back. Pass/Fail will have an update in the coming weeks.

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