Instruments gathering dust can play new tunes as part of the Tucson Summer Music program.

The program, which offers free music lessons to children 5 to 13 from low-income families, is collecting instruments during March.

The program was started in 2009 by Occidental College student and Tucsonan Shelby King as a response to cuts to fine arts programs at Tucson schools.

"I was driving down the street somewhere in Tucson, I can't remember exactly where it was, and there was a school sign, and it said 'we have fine arts' and it was almost like they were advertising that they had fine arts, and I just sort of understood it was a given that fine arts, music and art classes were just part of everyone's education. So that had a pretty big impact on me," King said.

In previous years, King has rented instruments from local music stores. The program has grown from 11 students its first year to 55 students last summer, and the program spent about $2,000 on instrument rentals last year, King said.

All instruments will be accepted at the drive, King said. In previous years kids have played instruments including guitar, flute, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, clarinet and electric keyboard.

Lessons are given by volunteers, usually University of Arizona or Pima Community College students, and the program is always looking for more help, King said. Having more teachers means the program can accommodate more students, she said.

Participants get 30-minute private lessons weekly for six to eight weeks, and at the end of the program the students demonstrate what they've learned at a recital. In the previous two years the kids have also participated in weekly group music-theory lessons where they learn how to write their own music.

Most of the children who join the program have no prior musical experience, she said.

"The kids in the program are just so special. Every year they blow me away with how much they can do," King said.

Where to donate

Musical instruments can be dropped off at these Tucson Fire Department stations:

Fire Central, 300 S. Fire Central Place

Fire Station 7, 4902 E. Pima St.

Fire Station 9, 6275 E. Eastland St.

Music program

To learn more about the program, donate or to apply to be a volunteer or participant go to:

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at or at 573-4224.