October 2020
It wasn't the best of times, it wasn't the worst of times - it was Bringing Music to Life's 2020. While fully acknowledging the impact of the Covid pandemic, racial upheaval, political rancor and, here in the West, voracious wildfires, BMTL can report goals achieved, creative solutions to previously unimagined problems, the tremendous kindness of donors and the ongoing courage of some of our favorite frontline workers, music teachers.

(With a nod to Charles Dickens, who had his own appreciation of good children and bad times.)  
Kyle Jones
Aurora Central High School
Aurora, CO

In many ways, the beginning of the school year marks the end of the BMTL year. This year, when we helped teachers load instruments into their vehicles, and waved goodbye as they headed out across Colorado and into autumn, we indulged in a moment of pride in having awarded 537 donated instruments to 36 music programs. We had, as per usual in this very unusual year, gotten your instruments into our children's hands.

We also felt a wave of relief and gratitude to everyone who helped make that goal a reality. Due to the Covid pandemic, success was by no means a foregone conclusion.
Zachary Brake
Thunder Valley K-8
Frederick, CO
Aleaha Harkins and Deb Jackson
Denver Green School K-8
Denver, CO
Our instrument drive was humming along beautifully in March when the lockdown abruptly began. Colorado residents, following stay at home orders, were unable to bring instruments to us and our 16 statewide donation locations were unable to accept them. Donors did not give up, however; many simply brought instruments to our office as restrictions slowly lifted. Eventually, we were able to get all 700+ instruments to our repair partners, CIOMIT and Boomer Music.

At an average cost of $165 per instrument, BMTL makes certain that every violin, drum set, or clarinet is cleaned and in excellent playable condition before giving it to a music student. Because of the pandemic, we, like most arts organizations, found ourselves short of funds. So, in July we asked for your help. We hoped to raise $5,000 and unlock a matching grant from a generous longtime supporter. Thanks to the many of you who made those crucial contributions, we reached our $10,000 goal.

Instruments were being repaired, but now we wondered if there would be students to receive them. Would schools reopen? When? How? As every parent and teacher remembers, those questions remained unanswered for a remarkably long time.

The next challenge became getting instruments to teachers. Although we missed our traditional instrument presentation celebration concert, and an industrial storage unit is by no means the beautiful Newman Center, individual instrument handoffs turned out to be not just smart and safe, but fun and festive.
We commemorated each school's pick up by taking photos of teachers, briefly unmasked, with the instruments they would be taking home to their students. It was a satisfying end to the BMTL year, and an encouraging way to begin the 2020/2021 school year.
Andrew Saletta 
Mancos Middle & High School
Mancos, CO
Jacob Passini
Timberline K-8
Longmont, CO
“We want to thank you and the BMTL organization for the gift of violins, a viola, and a cello for this school year. All six of those instruments are already in use.

I felt we needed to say thank you in a bigger way than with just a card so when we presented our “spring concert” on September 3, we shared with the audience how BMTL has impacted our music program, introduced the girls who were playing the new instruments, and provided an opportunity to give back through a free-will donation.
The girls stood by the violin case (our collection box) playing their instruments while people dropped their donations in. I was taken aback that we had collected $260 so quickly, but thrilled we could send it off to you.

You have blessed us in so many ways, and we wanted to be a blessing for others by paying it forward. Thank you again for this gift, and for giving us the opportunity to expand our music program!"

Enola Leonard, Director
Karval Public School Music Department
Karval, CO
Over the last eight months, all of us have participated in "Covid chats" - the phone calls, emails and texts made to simply check in, connect and listen to one another. Similarly, we reached out to each of the teachers whose schools and music programs received instruments from BMTL this year. We asked how they were doing, what challenges they face, what tips they could share about teaching music in a pandemic and what their students were saying. Here are some of their responses and what they want you, the friends and fans of BMTL, to know.

In a word, teachers and students are "Tired." "Stressed." "Frustrated."

But genuine care for students came through in every response. Teachers described the importance of building relationships. They underscored the importance of being patient, understanding and compassionate.

They shared the unique role music is playing now in schools. Katy Lushman of Denver North High School summed it up, "Many of [my students] say that music is the only thing keeping them sane during this crazy time. And hearing students playing their instruments over Zoom and knowing that they're growing as musicians is about the only thing keeping me going as a teacher during this difficult time."

Teachers also shared how important donated instruments and repair funds are to the jobs they do. "Without YOU, we would not exist," said Tim Baird of Ellicott Middle School in Calhan.

Finally, in spite of everything, teachers told us "I love my job."

Teachers, we love you, too!
"Bringing Music to Life donated 20 beautiful instruments to our 6th grade beginning band program and we have been setting up outside and putting them to good use. Despite the extra hurdles and challenges, the kids still love to play, and it is still just as joyous and inspiring when they make a breakthrough or find out that they love to play music! "
Ian Ferguson 
Ute Pass Elementary
Chipita Park, CO

"As our students come into the classroom, it is not what they 'say' but what they do that amazes me. They simply cannot wait to open their cases and begin playing their instruments."
Cathy Camp-Davidson
Hanover Junior / Senior High School
Colorado Springs, CO
"My students, I have learned, respond much better when I let them know that I understand why they are frustrated than if I tell them to deal with it and move on. They need compassion more than anything else at the moment, and it is our job as music educators to provide that for them."
Nicole Janitell
Canon Exploratory School
Canon City, CO
Kathy Newman presents a memorial violin to Wheeling Elementary Music Teacher, Yolanda Calderon.
In July, we received an email from the owner of a string instrument shop near Boston. Paul Leder wrote: “We were horrified when the murder of Elijah McClain became a national story a few weeks ago and wanted to do
something--anything--to try to restore some justice. His family's lawyer told
us about your organization.

So we would like to donate a violin in his memory. Since we're a violin shop we'd make sure it was ready to put in someone's hands to play. We're especially hoping this would go to someone not necessarily who is a special talent, but rather anyone who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn to play the violin.
Bringing Music to Life welcomed Mr. Leder's generous donation and assured him that it would go to a school with students who matched his description.

Because Elijah was mostly home-schooled, we were unable to award the violin to a school he attended, but we were able to identify a school with a diverse student population located in Aurora near his home. We contacted Yolanda Calderon, the music teacher at Wheeling Elementary School, and invited her to receive the violin from Bringing Music To Life board member Kathy Newman.
We wish the scariest thing that any of our children would have to face for the rest of the year would be weird orange marshmallow peanuts.

We wish that the only masks our teachers and parents needed were part of their super hero costumes.

We wish that all of our donors know how thankful we are that they make Bringing Music to Life possible.

We wish you safety and harmony until we see you again next year.
Bringing Music to Life

2390 S Fillmore St
Denver, Colorado 80210
(303) 756-3123
Steve Blatt, Executive Director . David Necker, Co-Chair . Anne Necker, Co-Chair
Christine Andresen . Rebekah Bonn . Peter Dawes . Michael Frank
Ralph Lawrence . Kathy Newman . Jerry Reuschhoff . Lin Williams