Over the years Band instructor and Unified Arts Curriculum Coordinator Bill Smith has watched families struggle to afford maintenance and repair for their children's instruments. The pricey services and initial purchase costs tend to dash the hopes of students interested in taking up an instrument altogether.
Smith is attempting to change all of that with a program known as "Service Learning", that promotes learning through community involvement. The program originated in Maine and is utilized in all of Coventry schools in a different way.
The Service Learning initiative is a teaching strategy that connects classroom learning with real life. It strives to motivate students and increase academic performance while students solve real life problems in the community.
Smith currently has 12 students ranging from freshmen to seniors that have been taking several hour-and-a-half-long clinics with outside professionals that come to the school after hours to teach them how to repair woodwind instruments. The students are currently learning the ins and outs of the flute, saxophone and clarinet, but Smith hopes to expand their body of expertise in the future.
"The kids are learning the absolute superior way to fix an instrument," he said.
The clinics have been made possible by a $300 grant from the school district that paid for the three repair kits the students will use.
"What better way to get to know their own instrument than by learning how to repair it?" asked Smith. "They will have a better understanding of how it works and how to take care of it."
The goal of this program is for the students to be able to repair instruments within the district's music departments but also encourage the community to donate instruments they no longer want so they can be repaired and offered to families at the elementary school level that would not normally be able to afford an instrument for their child.
"Parents still know the value of instrumental music," said Smith. "Students who study music score higher on the SATs and do better in math, science and other academics."
Smith said he hopes the program will not only benefit the school district, but that eventually members of the community who may be in need of instrument repair at a reasonable rate will be interested in the services offered.
"I'm really excited about it and I hope that the community comes out and gets involved," said Smith.
The participating students will perform the repairs after school or during their advisory periods and will receive community service credit for their time, a graduation requirement in Coventry.
If you are interested in donating an instrument to the Service Learning program or would like more information on services offered, contact Bill Smith at SmithBill@coventryschools.net or 822-9499 X157 or X170.