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Project gets Washington County children jazzed up

Musical instruments to be donated to Katrina survivors in New Orleans

Musical instruments to be donated to Katrina survivors in New Orleans

December 28, 2007|By ANDREW MASON

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Horns, flutes and other unplayed instruments in Washington County are re-emerging from their storage spots.

They're heading to New Orleans for a program that lets children use them.

Julie Barr-Strasburg, whose brother-in-law, Trent Strasburg, started the long-distance charity effort, is jazzed.

"It's all about music and how it flows from people and how it can heal people," she said.

Trent Strasburg, who retired after more than 30 years as a postal inspector, lives in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb.

He thought up the music project before Hurricane Katrina, but it gathered momentum and relevance when the storm rocked the Gulf Coast in 2005. Strasburg had just gone to school for a year to learn how to repair musical instruments.

He collected about 20 instruments within his Kiwanis Club. Other clubs contributed.

A Kiwanian in California gathered more than 100 instruments and delivered them to New Orleans, just in time for a band camp that needed them, Strasburg said.

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He said Kiwanis International awarded a $20,000 grant to help repair instruments.

"There are many, many children that do not have access to instrumental band programs," Strasburg said from Louisiana during a conference call. Barr-Strasburg, the executive director of Washington County's American Red Cross chapter, organized the call at her office in Hagerstown.

Many schools that recovered academically from the hurricane still lag behind in music programs, Strasburg said.

He named his instrument drive The Karnofsky Project, a tribute to a Russian Jewish immigrant who is said to have provided Louis Armstrong with his first cornet in New Orleans.

Under Strasburg's program, children receive instruments to play, but don't keep them until there's proof they have steady home lives and their interest isn't fleeting.

Along the way, they work toward owning the instruments, possibly through community service.

"It's really fun to watch them learn, especially with a good teacher ..." he said. "They start out not knowing a thing about the instrument."

Strasburg, 59, picked up the trombone in fifth grade, then again later in life, and plays now.

He figures his project has received about 140 instruments, mostly trumpets, flutes and clarinets.

The collection is making inroads in Maryland and West Virginia, through Barr-Strasburg and Trent's mother, Marie Strasburg of Inwood, W.Va.

A few months ago, they started speaking to local community groups about The Karnofsky Project.

Two people donated flutes. Two gave trumpets. A woman dug out a cornet she played 60 years ago.

Boonsboro Middle School is sending percussion instruments.

Barr-Strasburg has set an informal goal for the Tri-State area of 50 instruments. About 20 have come in or been pledged so far.

"They can make some kids happy," Strasburg said. "Even a ratty old instrument is better than no instrument."




To donate:

The Hagerstown Kiwanis Club has offered to pick up instruments that will be sent to New Orleans for children to use. Contact Fred Nugent at 301-739-9325 or fnugent@verizon.net, or Kevin Collins at 301-733-2371, ext. 100, or kevin.collins@myactv.net.

Money also may be donated to offset costs.

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