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Have A Musical Instrument Gathering Dust? Nonprofit Will Take Your Donation

NOEL KING, HOST:

Millions of us are stuck at home during the pandemic. We're baking. We're gardening. We're making TikTok videos. And we are cleaning out our closets, attics and basements, which is great news for a nonprofit organization called Hungry for Music. It donates instruments to schools, and donations are way up. Lots of schools, of course, aren't having in-person classes, but that means they need instruments because kids can't share them now.

JEFF CAMPBELL: It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

KING: That's Director Jeff Campbell filling his minivan with instruments in Mount Jackson, Va.

CAMPBELL: Today, we're picking up - looks like a couple of dozen instruments that are going to go to Junior Appalachian Musicians. I'm going to load it up, and we're going to head down there. And I guess we should get rolling. All right, off we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE STARTING)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Campbell's driving three hours south to meet Brett Morris.

BRETT MORRIS: I am director of Junior Appalachian Musicians. And we are the parent organization for about 55 after-school traditional music education programs called JAM.

MARTIN: For most of the families in the program, buying a fiddle or a banjo just isn't financially feasible.

MORRIS: Hungry for music has been instrumental - no pun intended - on the success of JAM programs everywhere in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee for more than 10 years now, donating more than 500 instruments. It's a big part of life here. We really seek to connect as many kids with it as we can so that they can be proud of where they're from.

KING: The New River JAM Band is practicing for an upcoming performance. This is their first time together in person for months.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NEW RIVER JAM BAND: (Singing) There is a time for love and laughter. The days will pass like summer storms. The winter wind will follow after. But there is love, and love is warm.

KING: Half of these kids are playing instruments donated by Hungry for Music. They're all between 11 and 16, but among the six of them, they've got decades of experience.

KARLEE HAMM: Music's like the air I breathe. It's always been around me. And I hope it always will be. Hey, my name's Karlee Hamm. I'm from Ashe County, N.C. I'm 13, and I play the guitar. (Playing guitar).

SOPHIA PUCKETT: Hello. My name is Sophia Puckett. I am 16 years old from Galax, Va. And I play the mandolin. (Playing mandolin). Music has always been a very important part of my life. If I didn't have it, I really don't think I'd be able to make it.

KING: As you can hear, music is a really big part of life in this region.

CAMPBELL: So here's the upright bass. It looks to be ready to go.

JIM LLOYD: Yeah. Where's Logan (ph)? Look at this stuff.

CAMPBELL: Oh, my gosh.

LLOYD: It's loaded up (laughter).

CAMPBELL: I'm telling you.

LLOYD: I'm Jim Lloyd. I'm program director for Junior Appalachian Musicians. I'm also a barber of this town. Every time Jeff comes, it's like Christmas - a lot of happy kids.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEW RIVER JAM BAND PERFORMANCE OF SCRUGGS'S "FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN")

CAMPBELL: I have made some sacrifices, but have I really? You know, because I'm doing what I love. I'm doing what I'm passionate about. I feel like it's a gift, a privilege to be able to do what I'm doing. And I'm excited about it. It's a lot of work. I'm overwhelmed. But I really would like us to be - if a kid ever needs an instrument, that Hungry for Music is where they need to go.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEW RIVER JAM BAND PERFORMANCE OF SCRUGGS'S "FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN")

MARTIN: Program director Jeff Campbell. Hungry for Music has donated around 15,000 instruments to music programs across the country. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.