APAG is reaching out to many segments of the population of Aiken and beyond to enhance the quality of life of many individuals. The outreach programs also include the military and residents of senior living centers. Special discounted tickets for the performances are made available to senior residents and APAG has provided the seniors with performances at their own living centers.
In the Spring of 2009, APAG initiated a new type of Educational Outreach Program by sponsoring an exciting drive known as “Instruments In Your Attic” (IYA). The purpose was to collect unused musical instruments from individuals in the community, to repair the instruments, if necessary, and to donate them to county public schools and to USC-Aiken. With schools’ budgets for the arts greatly reduced or non-existent, the need for instruments is critical.
APAG staged a huge publicity campaign to spread the word about their latest school outreach project. IYA was enthusiastically received by the people of Aiken County. In the first year of the campaign more than 150 instruments, 3 pianos, and a xylophone were donated (well over the number expected).
Needed repairs which were made to many of the instruments, and they were given to area public schools and USC-Aiken. Some of the instruments from the IYA drive have been loaned to band and orchestra students. Other instruments will stay in the schools to be used in their music programs. Even a single piano in a school can give the students exposure that they may never have and instill an appreciation and love of music in their lives.
A Leavelle McCampbell Middle School student gets a flute through the Aiken Performing Arts Group’s Instruments in the Attic project.
Over the past three years, Aiken County residents have donated more than 205 musical instruments to Aiken County schools through the Aiken Performing Arts Group.
APAG is formally beginning its fourth season of its Instruments in the Attic program, asking people to contribute instruments they no longer use, said Bob Kelley, program coordinator.
“I’m amazed there are always instruments out there to be donated,” Kelley said. “It’s a very fruitful program for the schools. They look forward to us providing that support.”
Those with surplus string and brass instruments can take them to any of Security Federal Bank branches, which acts as a depository until they can be picked up by APAG volunteers.
The organization has received seven pianos that have been donated to schools as well. People who have one to give away or would like more general information may call Kelley at 643-0800. Any donated piano will be checked out by a professional tuner.
If they are suitable for donation, Henry Krippner of the Habitat for Humanity Restore will provide a van so that APAG volunteers can pick them up, Kelley said.
Musicians who check out the worthiness of other instruments include Lauren Meccia, Robert Abernathy, Alex Henderson and Scott Ferguson.
APAG applied for and recently received an $8,800 grant from Bi-Lo Charities to purchase such instruments as cellos and French horns, which are seldom available for donation. The Women of Woodside also has supported the project from the beginning.
Kelley delights in some of the stories behind the donations. One Aiken County couple brought in an almost-new Tama drum set. Their son had purchased it and had stored it with the couple while he is located overseas.
Then he decided to get an electronic set and told his folks to find a new home for the other drum set, which eventually went to the Midland Valley Band program this summer.
“We were the next school in line, and this just came out of the blue,” said David Hastings, Midland Valley band director. “That’s just phenomenal, and we’ll put it into use after marching season. Vanessa Cox, our music teacher, got a piano, too.”
Kelley said the Instruments in the Attic program could not operate nearly as efficiently without the help of Rose Puckett, the staff assistant to Aiken County Schools Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt. Puckett keeps the list of instrument needs that are submitted periodically by the school district’s music programs.
“I feel like Santa all year,” she said. “The schools really appreciate the caliber of instruments that have been repaired. We send out a wish list at the beginning of the year, and most of the schools reply back promptly. They get really excited when they get the instruments.”