PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — If it’s true that music is the soundtrack of your life, then for these Pontiac students, that soundtrack is as wide-ranging as it comes.
Whether it’s the traditional clarinet and tuba, or bells and buckets, the instruments have transformed into friends of sorts to the kids who use them.
Music is a relief for our students. It’s a sense of pride, a sense of joy, and a sense of normalcy in what's been a challenging year.
A challenging year for everyone including Accent Pontiac, the nonprofit providing kids this lifeline. The organization partners with Pontiac Public Schools to give kids wind and percussion instrument training, along with homework help and even a hot meal.
When the pandemic hit, that mission was tested.
“When the schools closed, we no longer had access to our students,” said Tina Rowan.
Practice space within the schools was no longer an option. Gathering for group lessons indoors, off the table, and critical financial support cut short.
“We had to cancel our major fundraising event in spring 2020,” said Rowan.
An event that was projected to raise them $100,000.
But despite the musical organization being forced off-key, instead of falling flat, it simply rewrote the notes.
In the early days, that meant serving their community by serving essentials, re-tooling to exclusively focus on delivering thousands of items to families in need, including groceries, meals, cleaning supplies, and PPE.
“We had to figure out how we were going to stay connected to our kids,” said Rowan.
By summer, they did, introducing porch lessons. A novel idea for instructors to go direct to the students' homes, teaching them outdoors, in their own neighborhoods.
For 6th grader Deonnie Peoples, it was the cure to boredom and isolation she desperately needed.
“I like other things to do besides sitting at home either doing work or school,” said Peoples.
“It does something to you when you’re away from people and you finally get that human connection,” said Brass instrument teacher and program Director Remus Webb.
Thankfully, today, the kids get to connect in person using donated space at Bloomfield Township’s Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church.
Practice does look a little different, social distancing, special masks with openings that allow for the students to play while staying protected, and instrument covers that help limit the aerosol transmission that comes with playing a wind or brass instrument.
For Deonnie, it was an adjustment, but a small price to pay.
“Now I’m starting to get it by ear, or they tell me, and I just play it by myself,” said Deonnie.
For peace of mind, that a musical program, the source of fulfillment, fun, and friendship has found a way to rebound and remain.
“Things have changed. But this stays consistent. Music is always there,” said Webb.
As mentioned, staying afloat financially has been a challenge. The good news is that accent Pontiac is taking their fundraising event virtual this year. It’s happening on April 23, 2021.
We’ll have more info on our website if you’d like to support them.
And if you know of a non-profit or business rebounding in a creative way, we want to hear from you.
Send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org