A public appeal by the Denair schools’ musical director for donated instruments struck just the right chord with many members of the community, who have generously responded with nearly two dozen new and gently used instruments.
One Turlock businessman, Mitch Logsdon, spent nearly $8,000 to buy eight brand new instruments. Logsdon owns United Equipment Co. in Turlock – the building off Lander Avenue just west of Highway 99 that looks like a tractor. Logsdon is a 1974 Turlock High graduate with no connection to Denair schools, but he was moved to help after reading about Fred Steiner’s request in the Turlock Journal on Nov. 20.
“For some reason, the article really got to me,” explained Logsdon, who said he played clarinet for two years in junior high school but otherwise is not musically inclined. “I think Denair is a nice little community and I got the feeling the music department doesn’t get a lot of attention, so I called Fred and talked to him about it.”
Logsdon priced new instruments online and was surprised to find out how much even cheap Chinese horns cost. He asked Steiner what brand he would recommend. Steiner said Yamaha because of its combination of quality and durability.
“He said they would last a long time, 20, 30, 40 years,” Logsdon said.
Next, he contacted Bernard Brauns, owner of Ingram & Brauns Musik Shoppe in Modesto. When Brauns heard what Logsdon wanted to do, he gave him an extra special deal, cutting the cost about 50%.
“In my 35 years of owning this shop, it’s the first time I’ve had somebody come in to do a donation like that,” Brauns said.
Logsdon ended buying eight instruments – a tenor saxophone, two alto saxes, two trumpets, two trombones and a flute.
Logsdon modestly shrugged off his generosity, saying: “I keep thinking how many kids will get good use out of them over the next 20 years. Kids who can’t afford an instrument can pick them up and learn. I hope these kids can now have quality instruments they can use.
“I told Fred when I delivered them, it was Christmas time, with all this corona stuff going around, we need something positive.”
Steiner admits he has been blown away by the response – not just by Logsdon, but by so many others.
He received an acoustic guitar from a teacher at Denair Elementary Charter Academy. A brand new tenor sax from a nurse who lives in Denair. Three clarinets and a trumpet from a music teacher in Turlock who told him she had been “waiting for this moment and collecting instruments for years.”
“A lovely young woman called saying she wanted to donate a flute,” Steiner said Thursday. “We received an alto sax from a guy in Hughson. A retired lady who graduated from Denair High School and played clarinet in school thought it would be nice to donate her clarinet.
“We don’t turn away a single donation. A guy dropped by today and donated his trumpet.”
Thursday afternoon, Steiner drove to Hughson to meet with “a very fine older couple” who wanted to donate an alto sax and flute that belonged to their daughter, who graduated from high school in Southern California in 1994.
“They’re kind people who just want to see the instruments that already served a loved one go toward helping others,” Steiner said. “But they shared with me a whole different type of story to go with that part. Their daughter is actually recently deceased in a boating accident. That subject really only came up by happenstance but when it did, the donation just seemed that much more meaningful.”
All told, Steiner has received at least 20 instruments -- ranging from various horns and woodwinds to an electric guitar with an amp – to replenish Denair’s musical stock, which includes saxes and trombones and French horns that are old enough to have been played by the current students’ grandparents.
Earlier this year, Denair also received one unexpected and valuable donation – a 113-year-old Steinway Model O piano.
The outpouring of instruments has been a revelation to Steiner, who came to Denair this year after 16 years teaching music at schools in the Los Angeles area. His vision is to revive Denair’s music program – one student and one instrument at a time.
The bands currently include 23 students at the middle school and 13 at the high school. Steiner also teaches about 300 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, but – like so many aspects of education – musical instruction has been impacted by the pandemic. It’s tough to show a child how to hold and play an instrument in a virtual world.
“I had no idea as far as what the resources in our Denair community might be,” he said. “All the people in Turlock helped a ton, too. I didn’t really know what to expect. But I don’t think we’re done. Everybody’s got a story, so it’s given me a chance to meet people in the community who I wouldn’t have got to talk to otherwise. I think some of the connections will pay off long after this is over.”
Anyone who would like to donate an instrument can email or call Steiner to set up a drop-off time at Denair High School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, his school phone (209) 632-9911 ext. 4249 or by cell phone (310) 357-4920.