LOS LUNAS — School of Dreams Academy’s contemporary band class ended the year on a high note thanks to a generous instrument donation and classroom makeover from Music Will.
Music Will is a national non-profit music program dedicated to ensuring all students have access to music education. In December, they traveled across the country visiting schools and donating instruments to programs in need.
SODA, however, was the only school in the state to receive a classroom makeover in addition to the donated instruments, which they partnered with Niagara Bottling.
“(In December) we did 12 different donation events across the country and seven have been in partnership with Niagara, who’s been supporting Music Will since 2016,” said Erin Musarra, senior manager of Institutional Giving at Music Will, who helped with the classroom makeover.
“We try to do donations in communities where Niagara plants are, and we have teachers who have been trained in our Music Will program at SODA, so it lined up well,” said Musarra.
Musarra, along with several volunteers from the Niagara Bottling plant in Los Lunas, spent the day at SODA on Dec. 15 setting up new storage shelves for the instruments, cleaning and reorganizing, and hand painting a small mural for the classroom.
“We’re in a small space, so the shelving in particular has allowed us to have more rehearsal space, which is great,” said James Landron, who teaches fifth to 12th grade band at SODA.
They also hung up new curtains and posters, and converted one of the rooms into a practice space with acoustic paneling that students can use for individual practice or recording of their music.
“Before (the new practice space), we had to find a different building or go outside and try and figure out how to record, so it’s awesome to have a nice, quiet space that’s set up for that now,” said Landron.
The most impactful part though, Landron said, is the new contemporary “rock band” instruments that were donated.
“They first saw (the new instruments) when they got back from break,” he said. “They were very excited to open up all the instruments and try them out right away.”
Landron said the new instruments have allowed more students who could not afford an instrument to be able to join the class.
“That’s really cool because there’s been times when we’re trying to figure out an instrument for a student and they’re like, ‘Well, maybe I’ll try it next year because I just can’t afford it right now,’” said Landron, “and it’s the worst feeling to be like, ‘Oh, maybe we have to get you into something else,’ so this gives all these kids an opportunity to try it out who may not have been able to otherwise.”
The donated instruments include a couple bass guitars, electric guitars, keyboards, amplifiers and a professional drum set.
Landron said they didn’t have a lot of contemporary band instruments prior to the donation, so this will boost the class and allow for more students to join and experiment with new instruments.
“It really benefits kids who may not be into playing the tuba or clarinet,” said Landron. “It’s a different avenue for kids who don’t necessarily like doing classical music or marching band music. It gives them an opportunity to try something else that sounds more like the music they listen to.”
Allison Blanchette, a junior in Landron’s class, said it was a “shocker” to see the new classroom and instruments.
“It was a very big change and I was very excited for it,” she said. “It will probably spark more interest for more students to join the class, and I think it will give us more options for playing and give people more pathways to explore.”
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.