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Guest post: Music educator Mark Reid on the impact of donated instruments

Mark Reid is a leader in Canada’s music education community. He is a former President of the Canadian Music Educators’ Association and was the 2013 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year. Mark teaches music in Vancouver’s public schools.

I grew up in Lindsay, Ontario, took piano lessons, learned to play clarinet at school, and marched in the Lindsay Kinsmen Band. I’ll never forget my first clarinet—a loaned instrument from family friends. Looking back, this clarinet was at risk of collecting dust and was rescued for an enthusiastic 11-year old excited to play in band. Now, as a music teacher, I look back and appreciate how important that rescue was.

This special clarinet was given to me at a point when my parents and I couldn’t be certain that this would be a lifelong passion. I grew up in a musical household, the child of a music teacher, but my Dad is a trumpet player and it was possible my interests could change. Having access to the clarinet, at no cost, meant that I could start learning without a long-term financial commitment to rent or buy a new instrument. I eventually bought my own instrument, but think fondly of the blue faux-velvet lining and shiny case that protected my first clarinet.

While some elementary schools have an inventory from which to loan instruments, mine didn’t. This loaned instrument, reunited with a young musician, helped me to discover and understand my interests, skills, and a vision for my future. I wonder how many kids’ families face obstacles that don’t allow for this journey of discovery because of limited school inventories or financial obstacles.

One contribution from one family made a difference for me and there are plenty of kids today who could benefit from similar generosity. You can imagine my excitement, then, that a program now exists to encourage this form of support and connection between communities and their schools. Schools across the country have been supported through a number of grant and investment programs to acquire new instruments, sheet music, and other equipment. What’s been missing is a coordinated effort to expand school inventories with revitalized, restored instruments. Until now, that is.

The Three Rs program is an innovative solution to support music education across Ontario. Drawing on the generosity of the community, the program connects opportunity with need, moving underutilized instruments out of storage rooms, closets, and basements and into schools across Ontario—into the lives of children! Just like my first clarinet, these instruments are ready to be rescued, restored, and reunited with aspiring young musicians.

I have seen firsthand how impactful this program can be. In addition to the curriculum and artful learning students experience, music classrooms are a place to learn collaborative skills, grow in social-emotional learning, and be part of a community. Schools across Canada are finding great success with a focus on student well-being, engagement, and cultivating 21st-century skills. Music education serves those ambitions and values very well. The Three Rs program further improves accessibility to music education—accessibility to this powerful learning—in Ontario schools. I’m convinced of this.

As the Three Rs program reaches to many Ontario communities, I hope students, teachers, and citizens across the province will recognize how incredibly happy I was to see one of the first community appeals occur in Lindsay. It inspired a rush of happy memories playing my rescued clarinet in the band room at LCVI, on stage at the Academy Theatre, or marching along Kent Street in a Santa Claus parade. That clarinet shaped the early days of my musical career and I am confident that the Three Rs program can do the same for countless kids across Ontario.

The Three Rs is currently collecting instruments until November 15th in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Please get in touch with them if you have an instrument you can donate!