With the return to normalcy, many people are now regretting their lockdown purchases. But the end of home confinement leaves some grimacing at the whimsical, albeit well-meaning, acquisitions gathering dust in a closet.
While many budding Leonard Cohens and Laura Marlings have long since given up on their musical ambitions, a new initiative is making sure unwanted instruments find the right home.
Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho, central London, is holding a musical instrument amnesty this Saturday for celebrities and the public to donate their discarded flutes, undamaged ukuleles and surplus saxophones.
All instruments will be serviced before being distributed across the UK and beyond to those less able to receive a musical education. Donors will receive a tracking number so they can follow their instrument’s journey and see firsthand where in the world it will find its second life.
Past amnesties organized by Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation (RSCF) have seen over 750 instruments and sound equipment delivered to children and young people in schools across the country and as far afield as South Africa and Uganda.
But organizers expect post-pandemic musical disillusionment to lead to increased donations this year. “We expect the turnout this year to be the highest yet,” RSCF official Adaze Ologbosere said. “If the number of calls we’ve had with people asking how they can donate is anything to go by, we expect the club to be packed on Saturday.”
Instruments collected under the amnesty are in increasing demand from schools after government plans to halve future funding for music in higher education, a move described as ‘catastrophic’ by critics. union members of musicians and other creatives, industry organizations, institutions of higher learning and commerce. unions that have expressed their horror at the cuts.
It was during lockdown that Shay Levi decided it was time to fulfill his lifelong ambition of playing the keyboard. “The second lockdown was pretty much glaring potential and disaster all at once,” she said. “I always wanted to accompany my voice on the piano but I never really had the time or the motivation to manifest it.”
But the fascination did not last long. “My motivation started to wane after a few sessions,” she admitted. “I’m definitely more of a hands-on learner, but back then face-to-face teaching wasn’t even an option.”
Gordon Downs had the same musical arc from enthusiasm to boredom. “I picked up the guitalele at the start of the second lockdown after finding it sitting collecting dust at a local charity shop,” he said. “I’m 70 years old and I wanted to prove that old dogs can learn new tricks but this instrument was too good for me: she’s a beauty and she needs someone with a lot more experience than me to do him justice.”
Rob Folkes, a professional musician who took up the acoustic guitar last January – and gave it up for good six months later – said even such a short time playing an instrument was rewarding.
“I can’t say I achieved my original goal – I’m not currently on a world tour to sell out – but I definitely got something out of it,” he said. “The experience reminded me that there is a lot of joy and fun in making music on a new instrument. I hope to do this again in the near future, whether it’s with the guitar or something else.