BANGOR, Maine — Plenty of businesses run Christmastime benefit events in which they collect cans of nonperishable food or presents for the children of parents in need.
Main Street Music Studios is doing some of that this year, too, with a coat drive for kids.
But the 7-month-old downtown business also is attempting to spread holiday good will in another innovative way. The store, which is run by Newport native Andrew Clifford, is collecting donated musical instruments which eventually will be distributed to local children whose parents might not be able to afford a new instrument.
Main Street Music Studios, or MSMS, has worked with several local schools to find a place for students to take instrument and voice lessons as budgets for musical offerings continue to be cut. The MSMS teachers realized that lessons are useless if kids don’t have instruments in the first place.
The studio will take instruments until Jan. 31, although the program eventually could run year-round. Mike Billings, of Eddington, who works at the studio and also runs his own studio and CD duplication business out of the space, said Clifford’s company will work with area schools to identify children who might be deserving of a donated instrument.
“We want to find out if there are any special kids out there who are good kids, who work hard and don’t have instruments, and try to put some of these instruments in their hands,” Billings said earlier this week.
The standout among the donated items so far is a drum set, donated by Aaron Emery, a professional drummer living in Tucson, who is from the Bangor area. In a handwritten letter to Main Street Music Studios, Emery’s father, Steve, asked that the set be considered first for a Bangor High School student and if none can be found, then other schools in the Bangor school system, and then Penobscot County.
Billings said a new drum set probably would cost at least $1,000.
Main Street Music Studios also has received three trumpets, two clarinets, three electric guitars, one electric bass and a concertina, an accordionlike instrument. Most are gently used.
“Everything we’ve gotten so far is in excellent shape,” Billings said. “I’m blown away by the generosity of people. It’s hard to believe people would be so willing to donate really nice musical equipment like this. Everything we have is in good working order, which is amazing.”
Billings said donors may drop off instruments that are in need of minor repairs or maintenance, but the studio doesn’t have the means to do the work itself. The point is to get the instruments to kids, and donations of pricey instruments in need of minor repair are better than no instruments at all, he added.
“If there’s an instrument sitting around that hasn’t been used in years and you put it in some kid’s hands, that’s a big step right there,” Billings said. “Maintaining it is kind of the easy part.”
MSMS is a kind of collaborative effort where people can take lessons and make recordings in the same place, Billings said, and the studio members hope that extends through their musical instrument donation program.
“When you pay it forward to kids in the area, you make their life a little easier by putting instruments in their hands, it’s just going to be better for everybody musically, and that goes for anything — art, music, education, anything,” Billings said.
Main Street Music Studios, at 49 Main St. in Bangor, also is collecting coats for charity, as well as donations for the Red Cross and Manna Ministries. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.mainstreetmusicstudios.com