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Education

Gasparilla Music Festival Gives Back To Schools Through Instruments

A child is holding a refurbished guitar.
Tampa Bay Music News
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Tampa Bay Music News
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to a Gasparilla Music Festival program that gives refurbished instruments to dozens of local schools.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to a Gasparilla Music Festival program that gives refurbished instruments to dozens of local schools.

Recycled Tunes is a non-profit program funded by the Gasparilla Music Festival that is dedicated to supporting music education in the Tampa Bay area.

Since 2013, the program has provided not only refurbished instruments, but also repairs and other supplies (strings, reeds, sticks, tablets, etc) to teachers and students.

David Cox, executive director of the Gasparilla Music Foundation, said the mission of Recycled Tunes is to provide every child the opportunity to get and learn how to play musical instruments.

“A lot of these kids really take to music at school, but they get maybe a couple of hours of lessons during the week, and don't have any way to practice when they get home,” said Cox. “So in those instances where we are providing an individual to the instrument, it goes a long way.

“And we've met some kids who have gone on to get scholarships to college through music and other great success stories have come out of that.”

A young group of students are learning to play guitar.
Tampa Bay Music News

However, COVID-19 has posed challenges for music education. Not only are there safety concerns over sharing instruments, but arts programs are not being funded as much as needed.

“It's a huge challenge right now to get these programs back online,” said Cox. “And for us, it's the busiest we've ever been.”

The pandemic also led the Gasparilla Music Festival to be rescheduled to October from March.

Cancellation would have caused more problems for Recycled Tunes, as Cox said the program wouldn't have had the money to do what they’ve been doing the last 18 months without the festival.

“We need that funding,” said Cox. “(It’s) so critical for the schools that we've done everything in our power that we could have this festival in the fall.”

He adds that in the 2020 school year, the program provided over 595 instruments to Title I classrooms in Hillsborough County.

On Monday at West Tampa Elementary, foundation representatives said they would give the school a number of keyboards.

A group of students at West Tampa Elementary are receive refurbished keyboards.
Tampa Bay Music News

Cox said music is a critical component of providing children with a well-rounded education.

“Kids who take music at an early age end up scoring higher on both their math and verbal SAT scores,” said Cox. “They also have better social skills, better memory, and better communication skills.”

When allowed to work in harmony with other subjects, music also helps children grow their self-esteem and build other essential skills.

Cox added that what really drives Recycled Tunes is the desire to help kids who don't have as many opportunities.

“We want to make sure that there's other opportunities besides just sports and athletics,” said Cox. “With kids going into high school, we want to have other opportunities in music and the arts is something that we think is critical. And we want our local schools to have great music and arts programs.”

Recycled Tunes has several instrument drives throughout the year. The collected instruments are refurbished by a local music store, Tampa’s Don Banks Music, and then donated to local schools and other music programs.

The Gasparilla Music Festival takes place Friday through Sunday at Curtis Hixon Park and Kiley Gardens Park in Tampa.

“Anybody that really values the arts and music in our community, we encourage them to go buy a ticket to our festival,” said Cox. “Know that that money is really going to the future music makers in Tampa Bay.”

The Gasparilla Music Festival is a supporter of WUSF Public Media.

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