From Bikes to Music Project Finds New Way To Help

Music ProjectThe St. Kitts and Nevis Music project will help develop a comprehensive music program for at-risk youth.

Submitted by Constance Mente

(Hamilton, NY – Feb. 2013) Community Bikes, a non-profit organization that collects and refurbishes donated bicycles and places them with families that cannot afford one, has embarked on a new project to meet a critical need – one that has nothing to do with bikes.

The St. Kitts and Nevis Music Project aims to develop a comprehensive music program for at-risk youth in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

How did Community Bikes go from bicycles to brass instruments?

“It’s a bit of a pivot from our original project,” said Community Bikes founder Chuck Fox, “ but the music project is consistent with our broader mission to foster personal and community development where there is a need.”

Fox explained that the music project is a direct result of the successful Community Bikes project in 2012 to deliver 75 bicycles to St. Kitts and Nevis in support of two promising programs for at-risk youth. The overwhelming success of that project prompted a request from host country representatives for help with another high-priority project: developing a music program for at-risk youth.

“The case is compelling,” Fox said, adding that St. Kitts and Nevis, a breathtaking two-island nation with a rich heritage, vibrant culture and stunning natural beauty, struggles with one of the highest murder rates per capita in the world, the result of youth gang violence and drug-related issues.

“In a country of only 41,000 – about half the size of Madison County – a music program that will engage at risk youth can have a major impact.”

The project, designed by the Music Specialists in St. Kitts and Nevis under the Ministries of Culture, has three goals: to develop a community band, to expand the country’s international brass band and to preserve the country’s indigenous music, string band music.

Fox explained that, like calypso and reggae, string band music has African roots and features instruments of African origin.

“There is one remaining craftsman on the islands who still makes the instruments,” said Fox. “The goal is to preserve the music, heritage and craft before the opportunity is lost.”

To succeed, the Music Specialists have provided a list of needs: instruments, equipment, music supplies, instrument repair, master classes and more. To date, Fox reports that the project has received donations of nearly 20 instruments, with pledges for several more. He noted that a number of area schools are among those who have expressed an interest in helping the project succeed.

“This is a three- to five-year project that provides an opportunity for students to have a real impact on the lives of their peers in a neighboring country,” said Fox. “At the same time, students will engage with the international community through music and, in doing so, broaden their world view through an exciting exchange of music, culture, heritage and history. Through music, students will have an opportunity to represent their school, their community and their country.”

To get involved and for a full list of instruments and resources needed, visit www.intandempartners.org and click on “St. Kitts and Nevis Music Project,” or call 315.824.8210.

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