HMC (Photo Courtesy of Jenna Knorr)

Halifax Instrument Library: Instruments Wanted

This fall, Halifax has been all abuzz with talk of libraries; from the rising success of the Halifax Tool Library, to the brand-new Halifax Central Library, Haligonians are now, more than ever, embracing the culture of sharing. A third library is emerging on the scene in the form of a musical instrument library, being pioneered by the good folks at the Halifax Music Co-op. Interim Development Director for the Co-op, Stephanie Pronk, has been appointed as the fundraising champion for the library project. “The Halifax Music Co-op is all about making music accessible. That’s actually our mission: music for everyone. Currently, we’re really accessible in that you can come in, play an instrument, and there’s very little commitment from you; you just have to show up for your lessons and take part in the ensembles. You only have to pay as little as one dollar per year to be a member. Financially, it’s open to whoever wants to join; the only problem is that you have to come with an instrument because we don’t have any.”

The lack of musical instruments is a significant problem for the library, as they do not come cheap; ranging in the hundreds of dollars to the thousands of dollars, it is easy to see how music education can present some massive barriers to those who do not have the money lying around to pay for an instrument that they have not even learned how to play yet. So while membership itself may only cost a dollar, for the time being, membership actually costs a dollar plus the price of buying or renting a musical instrument. “That was always in our minds,” says Stephanie. “We were always making music education accessible and the tickets for our performances are very reasonable.  It’s accessible in every other way, except for that huge barrier, which is the need to rent or purchase an instrument in order to make it work; that’s something we wanted to address.”

Photo Courtesy of Halifax Music Co-op
Photo Courtesy of Halifax Music Co-op

And so, the idea for the Halifax Instrument Library was born.

Establishing an instrument library requires two things above all: money and instruments. The Halifax Music Co-op decided to turn to Indiegogo to crowd-source the funding for the project. Indiegogo, unlike Kickstarter, has flexible funding campaigns, which means that instead of refunding patrons in the event that a group does not meet a fundraising goal, the group would get to keep all of the money that has been pledged to them. “We’re a growing organization, but the Co-op itself doesn’t have charitable status; we aren’t able to garner regular corporate sponsorship or private sponsorship for the tax rebate, so crowd-funding is kind of our only option at this point. It’s a good option to have; it’s lots of fun. I think we’re lucky because lots of crowd-funding attempts aren’t successful, but we have such a huge community of people who play with us, from a variety of backgrounds, who are looking to make their programs better.”

In addition to the funding drive, the Co-op also has an ongoing instrument drive, which will extend beyond the end of the funding campaign and into the New Year. While one would think that it is easier to give money than it is to give a musical instrument, Stephanie and the Co-op have been surprised by the number of instruments they have received so far: “We have almost twenty instruments already. We had eight cellos donated by a cello repairman, here in Halifax, who had a bunch of inventory. We had four instruments donated during a concert: a baritone saxophone, a horn, a trumpet, and a flute. There’s also a group in Yarmouth, who previously did music education, and, over time, we’re collecting [instruments] from them, so there are another twenty or twenty-five instruments. The funniest donations we’ve been getting are organs; In the eighties, it was really popular to purchase a home organ, but the problem is that they’re incredibly heavy, over time they become incredibly out of tune, and they’re not really reparable, so I just can’t take the organs! Otherwise, we’ve been getting amazing donations, like beautifully-preserved pianos, and a variety of really wonky instruments, like an alto trumpet. I didn’t even know that existed!”

Jordan Bogardus (Photo Courtesy of Halifax Music Co-op)
John Bogardus (Photo Courtesy of Halifax Music Co-op)

The short term goal of the library is to have these instruments available for the members of the Co-op, where membership covers ages 18-85, with sights set on adding youth after-school programming. With the annual membership fee sitting at just one dollar (with the option to pay more, if you can), the final barrier would be removed if the Co-op could provide instruments for their members to use during lessons; however, Stephanie says the Co-op does have the general public in mind for their long-term vision, “A dream of ours is to definitely make the instrument library fully accessible to the public. Currently, we’re basically almost completely accessible, but there is that extra step of being a member of the Co-op; that’s very important to us because it means financial stability for us from term-to-term.”

“Everything about our programming and the Halifax Music Co-op is about going big and fulfilling a dream”

“It would be amazing if we could not only have our little instrument library within the Co-op space for members, but also something bigger, within the public library, with our name on it. You could just go to the Halifax Central Library, pick up a bassoon for the afternoon, and try it out in one of the practice rooms. That would be cool!”

An initiative like the instrument library goes a long way in demonstrating the richness of a community; the fact that it is fueled equally by the hard work of the Halifax Music Co-op and by the generous donors, both in the funding drive and in the instrument drive, demonstrates the interest that Haligonians have in contributing to the cultural energy of this city. “I think that the culture of sharing is becoming really popular, especially in Halifax and Nova Scotia, in general. I think it’s kind of our nature as Nova Scotians to be collaborative, community-oriented, and supportive of one another, and we have a really big background of music culture, in general. Halifax is already known as a music capital, and, in the past, it has been compared to Seattle; alongside The Patch, which is a sewing group, and the Halifax Tool Library, where you can go use their workspace or take a tool on loan, our instrument library is coming up at the same time in the community, and all of these groups have a broader theme of sharing and collaboration: of sharing resources and of sharing wealth.”

The Halifax Music Co-op’s Instrument Library Indiegogo campaign ends December 19 with a fundraising goal of $10,000. Patrons can donate as much as they like, or they can donate in conjunction with a variety of perks (for example, if you were so inclined to pay the full $10,000, the Co-op will provide you with full orchestral accompaniment at your wedding or another formal event of your choosing). As for the instrument drive, there is no end date posted, as of yet, and donations are being accepted at various locations in town, including: Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University, the Hub Halifax on Barrington, the Halifax Music Co-op Space, and the St. Margaret’s of Scotland Anglican Church in the North End. Drop-off location addresses and hours can be found on the Halifax Music Co-op’s website.

Photo Courtesy of Halifax Music Co-op
Photo Courtesy of Halifax Music Co-op

“We have assets in our community and we just don’t realize it because we don’t talk enough and we don’t know what everyone else is doing. We can really eliminate duplication, and really use things that are currently being un-used in our community, if we just talk to one another. I mean, I’m kind of biased, but I think libraries like this and community organizations like the Halifax Music Co-op are really, really important to the social fabric of a community.”

Jenna Knorr resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia, while studying at Dalhousie University. She enjoys writing, attending concerts, and drinking lots and lots of coffee. She can be tweetered at @JennaKnorr.