Local instrument drive benefits underserved students

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Ryan Hutchison is the executive director of the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, one of the organizations sponsoring the Fall Into Music instrument drive.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

When representatives of a local instrument drive announced they were collecting donations for Austin music students, they expected gently used instruments, not centuries-old family heirlooms. 

An 1800s German violin was donated to the inaugural Fall Into Music instrument drive benefitting thousands of underserved students in citywide music education programs. The violin was among 30 other instruments collected within the first day of the drive. The drive, which began Wednesday, will run through Sunday and is part of a joint effort by the College of Fine Arts and the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts. 

“The College of Fine Arts got involved with this program because we are, among our other missions, dedicated to providing high-quality arts education to the school children of Texas,” Dean Douglas Dempster said. 

Ryan Hutchison, the executive director of the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, said he believes the drive comes at a crucial time. 

“The beginning of the school year is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the need for music education and the great programs providing it across the city,” Hutchison said. “Fall Into Music is the perfect platform to get instruments into the hands of new students.”

Austin Soundwaves, a free program that aims to provide high-quality music education to underserved students in Travis County who attend East Austin College Prep, is one of nine nonprofit organizations benefitting from the drive. 

“Our ability to take on new students is based on how many instruments we have," program director Patrick Slevin said. "We have the interest but not the more unique or expensive instruments.”

According to Slevin, African-American and Hispanic communities in East Austin are the most neglected musically.

“Austin has an exceptional public music education system,” Slevin said. “At the same time, there are discrepancies based on the geographic location of the school.”  

Dempster said such educational inequity leads to unfortunate consequences down the road. 

“Inequitable access to fine arts education in the K-12 schools of Texas dominoes into unequal educational opportunity in college and universities," Dempster said. "That’s wrong.”

Hutchison pointed out the benefits of having access to music education can extend even beyond the classroom. 

“It’s about discovering intrinsic motivation through music — the more intangible things,” Hutchison said.