Donations pour in to replace musical instruments lost in Prospect Heights fire

  • A sampling of the musical instruments that were donated for families displaced by the July 18 fire at a condominium complex in Prospect Heights.

    A sampling of the musical instruments that were donated for families displaced by the July 18 fire at a condominium complex in Prospect Heights. Courtesy of District 21

  • Bryan Itzkowitz, director of bands at Holmes Middle School, directs its jazz band at the school's annual pops concert in April. "The outpouring was overwhelming," Itzkowitz said of his request for donations of musical instruments for students who lost theirs in the Prospect Heights fire. "We received so many instruments that we're not taking any more."

    Bryan Itzkowitz, director of bands at Holmes Middle School, directs its jazz band at the school's annual pops concert in April. "The outpouring was overwhelming," Itzkowitz said of his request for donations of musical instruments for students who lost theirs in the Prospect Heights fire. "We received so many instruments that we're not taking any more." Courtesy of District 21

 
Updated 8/23/2018 8:49 AM

Among the donations that poured in to help the Prospect Heights families displaced by a July 18 condominium fire was one unusual group of school supplies: musical instruments.

Bryan Itzkowitz, director of bands at Holmes Middle School in Wheeling, asked the community to donate instruments that were no longer being used. Area families immediately responded, contributing everything from brass and woodwind instruments for band, as well as violins for orchestra.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Among the levels Itzkowitz teaches is sixth grade band, which can sometimes be an entry-level band program for students. His goal was to replace instruments that students may have lost in the fire, as well as make them accessible for younger siblings who may not be able to afford instruments.

All of the children who lived at the River Trails Condominium complex feed into Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 and its three middle schools, nine elementary schools and early childhood center.

All told, the district serves more than 4,500 students in Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and a portion of Northbrook.

"The outpouring was overwhelming," Itzkowitz said. "We received so many instruments that we're not taking any more."

This came as music to the ears of new Superintendent Michael Connolly, who started a little more than six weeks ago after leading Keeneyville Elementary District 20 in Hanover Park, and earlier serving as director of curriculum at Fenton High School in Bensenville.

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"I was pleased and heartened at the response," Connolly said, "but as I'm learning that's part and parcel for this community."

He adds that District 21 also drew monetary donations to its Katie Samsel Fund, named in memory of one of its longtime principals who passed away in 1974. The fund was created to help students and their families in an emergency or hardship situation.

"More than $30,000 has already come in," Connolly reports, "so we're able to provide multiple types of support to help get these families back on their feet and get ready to send their children back to school."

As Connolly has come to learn, attending school within District 21 means access to high quality art and music programs along with their core classes. Making instruments available to children underscores that commitment, he says.

"It's very clear that the music program is a highly regarded program and one that the community is very proud of," Connolly says.

In fact, the jazz band at Holmes Middle School won first place this year among junior high ensembles at Jazz in the Meadows in Rolling Meadows, a category that Cooper Junior High School in Buffalo Grove has dominated in the past. Its symphonic band also played at the Illinois Grade School Music Association's annual contest.

"What I've come to learn is that in District 21, music and art are not simply add-ins," Connolly says. "They are programs regarded as vital to a well-rounded education, and ones that support student growth and student learning."

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