For years, Paul Goetze kept his worn childhood trumpet stored away in the attic of his Floral Park home, untouched. The trumpet, which he bought used 47 years ago when he was in the seventh grade, is a testament to Goetze’s childhood.
“I started playing music when I was 6 or 7 years old, growing up in the Bronx,” Goetze, 65, said. “That trumpet stuck with me all throughout middle school and high school — I put it down once I got to college, and kept it ever since.”
Instruments from Goetze’s adolescence held enough sentimental value for him to keep them up in his attic. But earlier this year he pulled the trumpet out and gave it away, finally parting with his childhood companion with the hope it will bring another child the same type of joy it brought him.
Goetze’s trumpet was one of close to 3,000 instruments donated to the WQXR instrument drive, a new initiative by the Manhattan-based classical music radio station to benefit music programs in New York City public schools.
“I always knew there was a reason I kept it all these years,” Goetze said. “And this was it.”
WQXR teamed up with Huntington-based Sam Ash Music Stores to help collect and restore nearly 2,200 of the 3,000 donated instruments that were deemed repairable. Donations were collected in 11 Sam Ash locations, including two on Long Island, from March 28 to April 7. The distribution to the schools began earlier this month.
“Often the number one reason why kids don’t play music in school is that they don’t have an instrument, or a working instrument,” Graham Parker, general manager of WQXR, said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What could we do to be a little more active and help out in our community,’ and we thought, ‘Why not a drive?’”
“When we launched this, our goal was to receive around 1,000 instruments,” Parker added later. “To get to this, almost three times our goal, is incredible.”
Now, WQXR is working with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation to place the instruments in New York City public schools. According to Parker, 30 schools have been chosen for donation so far.
The Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) was one of the first to receive a donation from the drive. A group of students were given several donated instruments as part of a surprise presentation at the New York Public Radio annual gala, held on Nov. 17 in Manhattan.
According to WHEELS music department chair Gianfranco Tornatore, the school relies solely on grants and donations to fund their expanding music program. As the middle school/high school prepares to accommodate prekindergarten programs, the need for more instruments is dire.
“Its hard to sustain music programs that are constantly growing — financially they cost a lot of money,” Tornatore said. “At our school, we believe that access to a music education is not a privilege, but a right. We’re so lucky to be able to provide that to them.”
And, just like Goetze, Tornatore sees the deep relationship a child can build with their instrument over the years.
“Our kids will use the same instrument over the entire course of their time here,” Tornatore said. “These instruments are very personal to the kids — they’re more than just a piece of metal — at a certain point, they become an extension of who they are.”
Goetze still has his first instrument — a purple miniature accordion, stocked away in the depths of his attic. Although the keys are worn, and the instrument is far from playable, it still strikes a powerful chord for Goetze, every time he takes it out of its worn black case.
“You know, if this could be restored, I think I would give it to someone who would treat it right and like to play it,” Goetze said. “I think a lot of people want to do good things — they just need the right outlet for it.”