Parrotheads let the beat go on

Local group donates money to instrumental music program

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Danny Griffith considers himself lucky.

When he was growing up, his parents could afford to buy him a drum set and lessons. When he started taking music lessons in the fifth grade, he was able to excel. Now, Griffith and his fellow Parrotheads look to help local students in the same way.

The Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrotheads - a branch of the national Jimmy Buffett fan club with more than 40 members - has started raising money for the instrumental music programs at Craig Middle School and Craig Intermediate School.

"Some families can't afford to buy musical instruments for their kids," Griffith said. "Our goal is no kid left behind as far as music is concerned."

Griffith, Northwest Colorado Chapter vice president and owner of JW Snacks, said the group feels no child should be turned away from a music program.

"If there's a child out there that wants to learn music, we want to make sure they are able to do so," Griffith said. "We want these kids to have an instrument in their hands they can play."

Craig Smith, CIS Instrumental music department director, said there are plenty of students in the program, just not enough instruments.

"These are good kids, and they go through the comprehensive tryouts," Smith said. "These are the kind of kids you want.

"Quite frankly, it breaks my heart. I don't want to turn anybody away who has the desire."

Smith said he talked with the Northwest Colorado Chapter about extra funding, and the group decided to help out.

"Before I knew it, they had a silent auction at the restaurant, and raised a little over $1,000 in one day," Smith said. "The department has needs, and they'll pick up the bill."

Griffith said between $1,100 and $1,200 has been raised for the music program.

"Hopefully, this is small potatoes to what we'll have in the future," Griffith said. "The more we get the community involved, the better off we'll be."

The bills for having instruments repaired will be sent to the Northwest Colorado Chapter, and the music department will be reimbursed.

The schools lease instruments for students each trimester. Smith said students can lease-to-own the instruments if they wish to stay with the program.

"We maintain and lease some of the instruments here at the schools," Smith said. "But tubas, baritones and French horns are cost prohibitive for parents and families."

The money used from leasing the instruments is how Smith has been able to pay for the repairs he can't do himself, like chemical flushes.

"I'm not funded here - the school doesn't fund me," Smith said. "I don't have a budget here at the intermediate school. We're run through an activity account, and we generate our own funds.

"We get the hand-me downs. The program doesn't go any lower than sixth grade."

Soon, the Northwest Colorado Chapter will begin a community-wide effort during Clean Up Craig Week to collect old or unused instruments for the students.

"Bring in some old instruments, and we'll see they go to the right place," said Griffith, adding any instrument can be dropped at JW Snacks.

"It's a district-wide campaign to get people to donate those old used instruments collecting dust in the storage shed or attic," Smith said.

Griffith said the Northwest Colorado Chapter would also like to start a music scholarship.

"Other organizations have scholarships, but we want to have a music scholarship," he said. "We just try to do what's right for the community."

Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795, or bbulkeley@craigdailypress.com

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