Douglas High School sophomore Payton Pierce’s saxophone will be one of many getting an upgrade this year, thanks to a a $10,000 grant from C. Giles Hunt Charitable Trust recently awarded to the school’s band department.

The grant will go toward new instruments, namely to replace old or unrepairable saxophones.

“Last year was awful for saxophones,” Payton said. “It’s really good we are getting new instruments and it means a lot to me. There have never really been any good saxophones, so the chance to have good, quality saxophones would really benefit the music program.”

Music director Hannah Abercrombie and grant writer Amy Salthouse believe this is could be the largest grant the Douglas High School band department has ever received. In fact, Salthouse, who is president of the Winston Area Music Booster Organization and mother to one of the band members, is pretty sure no one has ever applied for a grant before.

“As far as I can tell, no one has ever pursued grant money before and actually when I talked to some of the elders, if you will, that have worked in the Winston-Dillard School District for many years, none of them could remember having to purchase instruments or how that was even done in the past,” Salthouse said. “We actually discovered that the current instruments that the students are using are probably 50-plus years old.”

Abercrombie is in talks to get at least get a new tenor sax, baritone sax and alto sax for the department. The grant is a lot of money but brass instruments are among the most expensive and these are just the tip of the iceberg for what the department needs.

Abercrombie said it is a start in the right direction.

“My first thought as a band director is on the instrument that kids probably won’t buy, the big instruments that the kids will for sure check out from the school,” Abercrombie said. “We have a lot of kids that play saxophones and not a lot of saxophones to give them that are high quality.”

Salthouse said she is about to write a second grant application to further help the department, though Abercrombie said she isn’t quite sure what the next rounds of replacements might include. If you ask the band students what they need, they say after replacing instruments it is the little upgrades, like new music stands and new chairs, that will make a huge difference.

The department has three bands, symphonic, concert and jazz, and currently boasts about 30 students, about half of its typical enrollment. Membership has been hit hard by the chaos of school during the pandemic, but Abercrombie is dedicated to giving each student the best musical education she can give them. New saxophones are the first step.

“Better instruments make better music make kids feel better and give them pride in their program and what they’re doing,” Abercrombie said.

Payton plays tenor sax for the symphonic band and will be one of the students to benefit from the new instruments. She said new instruments help overall, giving musicians the opportunity to expand their musical abilities and not be limited by the quality of the instrument.

“This is really the only thing I ever been passionate about and the only thing I’ve ever wanted to continue doing. I feel like getting better quality instruments is giving me and the other students the opportunity to strive and take better action in their music career too,” Payton said.

Fellow sophomore Adrianna Sulffridge will also benefit from the new instruments. A baritone sax player for the jazz and symphonic bands, Adrianna said these new instruments will provide a way for her to enhance her skills.

“It will improve my education by allowing me to fine-tune my skills and being able to enhance the way I play. It will increase my skill and my spectrum on what I am able to play,” Adrianna said.

Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review. She can be reached at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review, mother of two and a native of Roseburg. She is an alumni of RHS, UCC and Western Oregon University. Contact her at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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