A dusty and discarded instrument to some could equal a future of musical education to area students.
"Instruments in the Attic" -- a program the George Mason University community started a year ago -- collects donated instruments to be re-gifted to music students in Northern Virginia.
The program started as a way to fill the university's needs for its music education students, who learn to play multiple instruments. With about 100 instruments donated this year, the program is expanding to provide instruments and instruction for area children, including Fairfax County Public Schools elementary students.
"I have a friend who started playing the trumpet again. His wife gave him a new trumpet. I asked him what he was going to do with his old trumpet because I could give it to a student," said J. P. Phaup, a member of the Arts at Mason board. From there, he said, he took the idea to school officials and the program grew to include instruments paired with instruction from college students.
"Students who play music feel like they belong. They do better in school. They understand teamwork," he said. "Certain areas in our region are in need of instruments. This is how we can get them there."
What sets Mason's program apart from other instrument collection programs, Phaup said, is the school -- working with the Potomac Arts Academy -- plans to partner instruments with instruction.
This, he said, is the next step to expand the program.
"That's the hard part," he said. "But that's the part that makes it work." Without instruction, Phaup said re-gifted instruments could end up back in storage rather than being played.
Potomac Arts Academy, a community outreach branch of GMU's College of Visual and Performing Arts, already works with public school children.
Percussion Professor John Kilkenny of GMU said donations so far -- nearly 100 instruments -- have been in the form of flutes and clarinets from local donors. The school, however, has received donations from as far away as Miami, where a resident drove a tuba up to Northern Virginia during a holiday break to donate it to the school.
"It looks like oboes and bassoons are rare," said Kilkenny.
Since the program's inception, the school has received another treasure in the form of an anonymously donated French Violin circa 1829, estimated at about $14,000.
This instrument is currently being played by the school's Concertmaster Yevgeniy "Eugene" Dovgalyuk, 29, a second-year grad student violinist, who moved to Vienna from Latvia when he was 11.
"I was right away impressed with the sound and openness of it," said Dovgalyuk, adding that like people, instruments take some time to warm up to. "I was curious about the story behind it. I was able to meet the donors briefly and they said it hadn't been played for 50 years."
"It's definitely one of the nicest instruments I've ever played," he added.
When Dovgalyuk graduates, the French violin will stay as a legacy instrument for all violinists who hold the title of concertmaster at the school, said Kilkenny.
Although the French violin represents a treat for the school and its students, program organizers say all instruments are welcome.
"We take any instrument regardless of condition," Kilkenny said.
How to help
To donate an instrument or money to help with instrument repair, contact Candy Neukam at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 703-993-9889. Visit www.instrumentsintheattic.gmu.edu for information.