Student's project shares the joy of music

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When Ally Sussman decided to join the school band in fifth grade, she thought she might want to play the clarinet. But when she got the chance to try all the instruments, something about the trumpet just felt right to her.

Now Sussman, who will turn 12 in July, wants other kids to have the opportunity to choose the instrument that feels right to them — even if their family can't afford to buy one.

“I feel that everyone should have the choice to join band,” Sussman said. “But if you don't have your own instrument, it's not a choice for you.”

Sussman has started an organization — Band Together 4 Music — to collect used musical instruments for donation. With the help of Mahomet-Seymour band directors Michael Stevens and Justin Barnish, the instruments will be provided to local students who might not otherwise be able to participate in band.

“I think some kids don't even talk to their parents about [joining band], because they know the answer's going to be 'no,'” Sussman said.

According to Barnish, the school owns a small number of instruments that students can use. Most of these are large instruments, which can be an obstacle if a student is more interested in playing a trumpet or flute.

“To have a student in our program recognize this as an area of need and to do something about it speaks to Ally's character and the dedication of our students to the program,” he said.

Sussman got the idea while trying to come up with a service project to undertake before her bat mitzvah, a coming-of-age ceremony that Jewish girls undergo at age 13. Mitzvah, she pointed out, is a Hebrew word meaning “a good deed.”

Sussman had done other community service activities in the past, but this time she wanted to do something that would reflect her interests and help students her own age.

She's started putting up fliers for the project around town, hoping to draw more awareness to the cause. With the help of junior high technology instructor Beth Hawk, she also started a website at http://bandtogether4music.weebly.com.

She invites her fellow band members to contribute to the site's photo album, which features candid shots of student musicians performing and practicing their instruments. She hopes that the photos will inspire younger students to join band.

Used instruments can be donated at drop-off points around the area: the Music Shoppe in Champaign, Mahomet IGA, Mahomet Public Library and Sinai Temple in Champaign.

Mahomet residents who don't have a spare trombone or saxophone in their attic can still help the cause. Sussman is also seeking monetary contributions to cover the cost of repairing and cleaning the donated instruments. Checks can be sent to Band Together 4 Music, 1402 N. Brookhaven Drive, Mahomet.

Ally's mom, Ann Sussman, isn't surprised that her daughter wants to share the gift of music with other local kids. She said that Ally is the first in her family to join a school band, and she's seen how much the program has enriched her life over the past few years.

“You never know whose life you're going to change by putting music education in the hands of a student,” she said.

So far, the only donations that Ally has received have come from Stevens and her grandparents. But as the community becomes aware of the project, Sussman hopes to collect a total of five instruments before school starts in the fall.

It might not sound like much, but to Sussman, it's five more students who can know the joy of music.

“It's a great experience,” she said of her participation in band. “You get to go on trips and work together and learn to play music. It's something that lasts a lifetime.”

 

 

 

 

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