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Seven pianos donated to Prince George's County schools


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Courtesy photo. Melvin Miles, music director at Forestville Military Academy, and student musician Keyon Brown, left, show off one of the newly acquired pianos thanks to the work of County Councilman Derrick Davis and A. Toni Lewis of the Foundation for the Advancement of Music Education.

Courtesy photo. Melvin Miles, music director at Forestville Military Academy, and student musician Keyon Brown, left, show off one of the newly acquired pianos thanks to the work of County Councilman Derrick Davis and A. Toni Lewis of the Foundation for the Advancement of Music Education.

Published on: Wednesday, September 04, 2013

By Alexis A. Goring

Seven pianos were distributed to three Prince George’s County public schools on Aug. 27.

The pianos were donated by the Foundation for the Advancement of Music Education through the efforts of FAME Founder/President A. Toni Lewis and County Councilman Derrick Davis.

“The schools are in dire need of good, functioning instruments and in some cases they need instruments period,” Lewis said. “A lot of schools do not have the instruments they need, and so kids don’t get the ample time that they need on the instrument.

“One of FAME’s goals of course is to provide access, opportunities and experiences for children. So access means access to the musical instrument that they need in order to perform … access to quality instruments so they can actually learn during the time that they’re spending in these classes.”

Originally, the old pianos that were donated sat idle in a room at Bowie State University’s performing arts center.

BSU recently opened its brand new Fine and Performing Arts Center, which took two years to complete and cost $71 million. The state bought new pianos, which are in use by the music students who gather in the new building.

When Lewis became aware that there were old pianos sitting idle in the former building, she made a pitch to BSU for the old pianos to be used to help further the education of children going to schools in the state of Maryland.

After Lewis began the push for the pianos, Davis, who Lewis called “an advocate for music,” helped making phone calls and supporting Lewis and FAME to raise funds to transport the pianos.

“He knows the value of music and advocates it because he knows what difference it made in his life,” Lewis said about the councilman.

Davis said he has worked with FAME for several years to “futher their call and their call is to support music in our public schools.”

“They do after school programs, and I just felt that the mission of FAME and my firm belief that music was a fundamental way of keeping me out of trouble as a youth … has been beneficial to me,” Davis said. “So, I thought this was something that I could support.”

Davis describes himself as a “proud product of PGCPS.” The councilman went to Walker Mill Middle school, graduated from Central High school and attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore via two scholarships — one for academic honors and one for music.

“So it’s (donating the pianos) really planting seeds so that other children, like me, have an opportunity like I had,” he said.

Brandon J. Felder, Director of Choral Activities and Piano/Keyboard for Largo High School, was “extremely excited” when he learned of the piano donation to be received by his school.

“It was a phenomenal surprise to receive these, especially so early in the school year. Sometimes, grants and donations happen in the middle or the beginning of the year, but to kind of receive it on the first or second week of school, it’s an amazing and fortunate occurrence,” said Felder, who already sees the how the piano donation will benefit the students in his classroom.

“Our room is kind of a more traditional room where we have about 15 upright or console pianos, which is kind of a challenge because when they’re trying to practice individually, they can’t do so without hearing 14 other pianos playing simultaneously,” he said. “So the bonus would be that they can use headphones and they don’t have to hear each other, and they can focus on their instruction on their own piece without being distracted by the other sounds that are occurring.”

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