Fairbanks elementary schools receive massive donation of musical instruments

Sue Waltman, who teaches strings at University Park, Woodriver and Anne Wein Elementary schools, tunes up a cello at a teacher work party the day before student return from Winter Break. (Photo by Robyne, KUAC)

A huge donation to the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District will spread new musical instruments among 18 elementary schools. The board accepted the anonymous donation last fall and the order of new instruments came in over the winter break. A dozen music teachers and staffers opened the crates Monday at a work party, ahead of kids coming back to school today.

Each case was carefully opened at the district’s shipping warehouse as the instruments were inspected and inventoried. Gwendolyn Brazier, who teaches general music at Barnette Elementary and Band and Orchestra at North Pole High School, engraved a number on the flutes and brass.

Theresa Van Hyning teaches at Ben Eileson Jr./Sr. High and Crawford elementary.

“This is an alto saxophone, and I’m just taking all the little pieces of cork out of it, making sure it is all greased-up and ready to go to a student,” Van Hyning said. “We have a lot of saxaphones right now, but unfortunately, most of them are damaged, so I know the student that gets this instrument is going to be so pleased because they will finally have a saxophone that works absolutely flawlessly.”

Sue Waltman, who teaches strings at University Park, Woodriver and Anne Wein Elementary schools, tunes up a cello, while Sunifa Dheer checks through a violin.

“When you have an instrument that is set up correctly, you can learn so much faster,” Waltman said. “If they’re not going to get a good sound, why would they be encouraged to continue playing? So, it really makes a huge difference. Yeah.”

Sharice Walker, the district’s Public Relations Director, says the district put out a bid in the fall to make the best use of the money.

“We received a $110,000 anonymous donation for new musical instruments for our students,” Walker said. “Which is amazing, and nobody remembers a donation like this before. We are very, very grateful for this. It’s incredible.”

Donations to the schools are certainly not unusual, but the size of this one – $100,000 – is very unusual. Walker swears she doesn’t know who the donor is. But she says having it designated for younger students will likely change some lives. “18 elementary schools that will be receiving instruments from this donation. The music teachers are thrilled. We are very excited that there is a member of our community who values music at our elementary age, so much, that they would make this possible.”

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