Sevastien Emmanuel carefully lifts the violin out of its case, holds it to his ear, plucking the strings. Around him, other fifth graders at Cranston’s Gladstone Elementary School cradle trumpets, clarinets, flutes, and one cello.
The look on their faces tells it all.
In the background, clarinetist Ben Marcoux, Newport Jazz Assembly Band Leader, plays softly, the perfect backdrop as 16 youngsters eagerly begin exploring their new instruments.
“It’s something they can take ownership of,” said Deborah Ross, Director of Education for the Newport Festivals Foundation, the organization that runs the famed folk and jazz festivals. “And they can start to create.”
Sixteen new and nearly new instruments were purchased by the Festivals Foundation to distribute to pupils at Gladstone Elementary, the first of what Ross hopes will be a continuing effort, part of the Foundation’s educational initiative. Funding came from the Festivals Foundation membership program, with support from Rick’s Musical Instruments in Cumberland, Ross said.
Last year, Gladstone Elementary School was among the schools where the Foundation’s Newport Jazz Assembly performed, introducing students to jazz.
Gladstone Elementary became the first school to benefit from the instrument program after its music teacher, Jonathan Cox, contacted the Foundation.
“Last year we started a band and strings,” Cox said. “We had to turn a lot of kids away because they couldn’t afford it.”
He was thankful for the school district and its support and efforts, but the district, he said, could not provide instruments for all the students. And some parents, he said, couldn’t afford to buy instruments.
“We want each student to have an instrument,” Cox said. “It’s so exciting, it’s great.”