‘Hard work can help them overcome challenges’: American Fork school bands raise money for new instruments

Local News

Courtesy: American Fork Bands

AMERICAN FORK, Utah (ABC4 News) — Tis the season of giving, and the American Fork High School Band is asking for the community to consider giving to their program.

Many instruments used by American Fork junior and high school band students are in poor shape. Orien Landis, the American Fork High School Bands Director, and American Fork Junior High Band Director, Lance Major want their students to succeed.

The two instructors put their heads together and came up with an idea to raise money to buy 24 instruments in 24 days.

Landis says their goal of $144,000 in donations is a lofty one, but feels the program needs that much to improve their instruments, some of which are up to 50 years old. “When discussing it with staff and parents that helped us get things organized we discussed the costs of the instruments. We talked about the need. We crunched some numbers and we think it would cost us about $300,000 to replace all of the instruments and purchase upgrades for new ones for both the high school and junior high,” Landis shares.

He says raising $300,000 sounded “a little unrealistic” and didn’t want to add additional strain on the community during an already difficult time. “We have roughly 600 students between the junior high and high school. If each student sends out 10 emails and those 10 people donate $24 that gets us to our goal,” Landis adds.

“We are hopeful that we will get close to that number but honestly, any amount will make a big difference for those students whose instruments we get to replace.”

The fundraiser started on Dec. 1. So far, the fundraiser has seen an “outpouring of donations” from hundreds of community members, alumni, and family members of current and past band members.

“The AF band community has always been extremely supportive of the band over the years. The band program is a huge unifier within American Fork and represents the community on a national scale year in and year out in a very positive way. For that reason, people really seem to rally around the band,” Landis says.

Despite the community support and students hard work, he says this year has easily been one of the most difficult years of teaching. “In so many ways teaching is about setting up norms and keeping things organized. This year has essentially thrown that all out the window. Nothing is normal and nothing is standard. The biggest thing it has taught me, however, is to appreciate what we do get. I have colleagues across the country that haven’t seen their students since March. When you are a band director, your job is your hobby and when you can’t go to work and do your hobby life is rough.”

He says he feels Utah has been blessed. He has been able to do in-person rehearsals and even some in-person performances. “I firmly believe that the pandemic will have more positive effects after this is all done than negative,” Landis adds.

Landis says being apart of the band means more to students than learning to read music and play an instrument. “I’ve always felt like band is an incubator of developing student’s attributes,” says Landis. “Band develops the whole student. When they learn how to practice, they really learn how to set goals and accomplish them. They learn hard work can help them overcome challenges. Learning an instrument takes dedication. It takes years to become a good instrumentalist. The skills learned while doing this directly translates to math, science, reading, and other academics.”

He says he has seen his students grow through the years. “I hope that in some way their time with the band will help them to be successful and lead them to a lifetime of happiness and always look back fondly of their time at the American Fork Band.”

Replacing instruments that are old, hard to play, and look like someone has run them over with a few trains will be a huge benefit, Landis shares.

Landis says the American Fork Band Program has experienced amazing success over the years. “The marching band has won the state championship 29 years straight, has performed at the Rose Bowl twice and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade twice. The concert bands and jazz bands have performed around the country at different festivals. But it doesn’t come easy. We are always working to help students advance and move the program forward. It takes lots of parent help, community involvement, and monetary support. We are hoping that people see the good we do for students and feel a special sense of giving this holiday season.”

100% of the fundraiser’s profits go directly to helping band students. “Opening up a new instrument with a student for the first time is like 50 Christmases wrapped up into one. Their excitement could power the city for a few hours. They practically run home to practice on it. The situation just demonstrates to the student how much the community and program care about them. Investing in students in that way is so so important.”

Those interested in donating can visit the American Fork Band website.

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