Two Linwood teenagers wanted to help more kids play in school bands by collecting used instruments to distribute to families who can't afford to rent or buy them.
"A lot of students don't pick up their instruments again after middle school or high school. They are still sitting in closets. No one's using them," said Michelle Moffa, 16, who will be a junior at Holy Spirit in Absecon next fall. "The point is getting them out of closets and into kids' hands."
She and friend Katie Rha, also 16 and who will be a junior at Mainland Regional High School in Linwood in September, started the nonprofit Hearts in Harmony to collect those unused instruments.
They are motivated by a love of music. Both made South Jersey Band this year, said Rha, who plays clarinet in Mainland's wind ensemble. They both plan to pursue careers in other fields, but say music will always be a big part of both their lives, including playing in groups, said Moffa, who plays the flute.
They picked a good time to start the effort. Lee Hambro, of Hambro's House of Music in Northfield, had already started the nonprofit Lenny Hambro's Foundation for Music, in honor of his dad, a well known alto saxophonist who played in famous big bands. Hambro was looking for projects and welcomed having Hearts in Harmony work under the foundation's umbrella.
And longtime band director Larry Lamkin, who taught both girls their instruments when they were at Belhaven Middle School, announced his retirement and was ready to clean out his own closets. Lamkin has donated about a dozen instruments to the effort.
This brought the total of instruments collected to about 23, Rha said.
Many of the other instruments came from former Belhaven Middle School band members.
The donations came in after Lamkin helped Moffa and Rha send an e-mail appeal to people on his mailing list. Rha and Moffa, both Tri-M Music Honor Society members, made a presentation at a conference of the society recently, and are planning to get members of the society involved.
Hambro's, in the Mainland Professional Plaza at 555 Tilton Road, is the collection point for donated instruments. Lee Hambro, of Egg Harbor Township, said he is already doing free instrument repair through the foundation.
"Michelle and Katie came to me. They knew what I was trying to do, and came up with their own thing," said Hambro, who graduated from Mainland Regional High School in 1982, then worked as a professional drummer until injuries from a car accident affected his ability to play. He opened the store six years ago.
Hambro will be repairing and reconditioning donated instruments, he said. The moving parts of instruments that haven't been played in a long time can become frozen.
"It takes a lot of work and chemicals and manpower to get them into working order again," he said. The felt in some instruments can be attacked by boll weevils, he said, and must be replaced.
Hambro also plans to train high school students in instrument repair, as part of the work of the foundation. Music majors can get college credit if they are trained in it, he said.
Hambro's dad was best known as an alto saxophone player in big bands from the 1940s through the 1960s. Later he was a session musician, entertainment director at the Claridge and music director at Bally's, his son said. Lenny Hambro died in 1995.
Hearts in Harmony is working to collect instruments for the Smithville School in Galloway Township and the John C. Milanesi Elementary School in the Buena Regional School District, Moffa said. She and Rha plan to expand the organization's reach in the future.
Any instrument used in school bands is welcome as a donation, Moffa said.
Hearts in Harmony is not the only volunteer group working to provide instruments to school bands.
The Friends of Music Group, founded by former State Sen. William Gormley and his wife, Ginny, has donated money and musical instruments to the Atlantic City school district since 2008.
Students who are in school bands typically rent instruments for the first couple of years, then buy them. The cost of purchasing an instrument can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, Moffa said.
"More complex instruments, like the tenor sax, are more expensive," she said. "It's hard for some families to put forth that money."
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:
To donate instruments to Hearts in Harmony, drop them off at Hambro's House of Music, 555 Tilton Ave., Northfield. Call Hambro's at 609-646-2345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org