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‘Every kid who wants to play will’: District to provide musical instruments to all interested elementary students at no cost

The first batch of instruments were delivered in September.

October 11, 2023

The cost of buying or renting a musical instrument will no longer be a determining factor in whether a Baldwinsville Central School District elementary student joins the band or orchestra program. 

“Every kid who wants to play will!” said Randall Bennett, the band teacher at Elden and Palmer elementary schools. 

The district offers orchestra and band to students starting in third grade. Music instruction and lessons are held during the course of the school day similar to chorus, physical education, art and other special areas. However, the major difference is the cost associated with participating in band or orchestra. The responsibility of buying or renting an instrument falls on the families. 

“This isn’t a small expense,” Bennett said. “Instruments can cost thousands of dollars to buy and renting isn’t cheap. Renting can be $30 to $40 a month, and if a family has more than one child, that cost adds up.”

The cost can be a major reason why a student doesn’t sign up for band or orchestra. Superintendent Dr. Joseph M. DeBarbieri said the district doesn’t want the cost to stand in the way of a student learning how to play an instrument. 

“We provide textbooks, gym equipment, art supplies and sports jerseys, so why wouldn’t we provide instruments, if we can,” DeBarbieri said. 

During the 2023-2024 budget development process, DeBarbieri and his leadership team determined that an increase in Foundation Aid would help offset the costs of purchasing instruments for third, fourth and fifth grade students to use. The initiative was presented first to the community budget advisory committee and it received support from the group. Next the initiative was presented to the Board of Education and included in the 2023-2024 budget, which was adopted by the school board and approved by voters in May 2023. 

Research shows that music education helps students develop language and reasoning skills, improves memorization and coordination, and helps kids stay engaged in school. Students receive a sense of achievement, learn teamwork and develop creative thinking skills from music education. 

Palmer Elementary School students received their saxophones.

“We know how much music education positively impacts the education of students,” DeBarbieri said. “In exploring this initiative, we have found that it has had positive results in other school districts. Success was measured by increase in student participation in music programs through high school, growth in academic achievement and students developed stronger relationships with their peers.”

Casey Vanderstouw, high school band teacher and director of the Marching Band and Pep Band, said he’s excited to see more students having access to musical instruments.

“When I began band lessons as a fourth grader, having access to a quality instrument was a serious concern for my family,” Vanderstouw said. “Seeing our school district take steps to alleviate that concern for beginning band students and families is heartwarming and will undoubtedly open the door for more student musicians to explore performing in band and orchestra. Hopefully, having early access to quality musical instruments will lead to further retention in our programs as these students continue their musical exploration into junior and senior high school.”

All of the elementary schools are seeing an increase in participation in band and orchestra for this school year. 

“This is a great opportunity,” Bennett said. “Learning something in a new way helps the brain function in other areas. Music education also gives kids another outlet to express themselves. It all goes to the overall education of the student.”

Parents were notified of the program in May 2023 and a survey was sent out to gauge interest. This helped the district know how many and what kinds of instruments to purchase. Instruments have started to come in and given to students, who will keep them through elementary school. The district hopes that future instructional budgets will allocate funding to allow students to keep their instrument through their senior year, similar to our Chromebook distribution plan. 

Dr. DeBarbieri said supplying students with instruments is supported by our district’s mission, vision, goals and beliefs. 

“Students' involvement in music will allow us to address literacy, overall academic progress, help students build self-confidence and strengthen relationships,” Dr.DeBarbieri said. “It’s a win-win!”

Baldwinsville has been named a “Best Communities for Music Education for 13 consecutive years in a row.

Read Related Story: Family makes donation to District’s music program in memory of son