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Bringing Music to Life drives through COVID-19 closures

Shutdowns due to pandemic started during annual musical instrument drive's kick-off.

DENVER — In a time when life is lived behind closed doors, charities like the Bringing Music to Life instrument drive can easily become casualties of COVID, according to its executive director Steve Blatt.

"So, this has been a year. It's been tough for everybody," Blatt said.

For 10 years, Bringing Music to Life has provided musical instruments to schools through an annual statewide donation drive each spring sponsored by 9NEWS. People are asked to bring their old and unused trumpet, violin or trombone to be refurbished and given to students in music programs at schools around Colorado.

But, this year, the doors of donation were closed by news of the pandemic.

"Some of the shutdown orders came during the second week of the drive," Blatt said. "Suddenly, people were not able to come in and donate instruments."

Many people were not able to go much of anywhere at all in March, including work. Blatt said that had an impact on more than just instruments coming in.

"It's almost like somebody turned off a tap," Blatt said. "All the financial donations stopped."

But, as the saying goes about "the show," Bringing Music to Life went on -- in a new way.

"We were way down as far as instrument donations and then, sure enough, week-by-week people called up and said where can I bring the instrument and in many cases I said just bring it to my home," Blatt said.

From his home to a storage unit in Denver, Blatt was able to collect and distribute donated instruments to music teachers like Alex Randolph from North Arvada Middle School.

"This is really incredible," Randolph said.

He picked up 15 instruments to help revamp his music program.

"New value? Well over $10,000 worth of instruments donated today," Randolph said. "That's just money we don't have in our schools."

In normal years, Blatt said 700 or more instruments are donated to schools around Colorado.

"We will have distributed 514 instruments to 35 different schools and it feels good to be able to do that, especially this year," Blatt said.

Usually, the instruments are given out all at once during a ceremony at the Newman Center at the University of Denver.

"This year, it's a lot of little events," Blatt said. "So, we've had basically 35 presentation events, most of them here at the storage unit, a little different than before."

Randolph said how teachers receive the instruments is minor.

"It's a different feel, but it helps me focus on what really matters here is the spirit of giving," Randolph said.

What matters, Randolph said, is the fact that not even COVID-19 can stop people from bringing music to life.

"I've got all these instruments now loaded up in the van and we're going to go make music with it," Randolph said.

If the pandemic is still around next spring, Blatt said Bringing Music to Life will be ready to adapt once again.

"We're glad to help and we got it done," Blatt said.