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Band Students Fundraise For Music Program's Encore

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A fundraising effort is underway in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn to help a group of students bring back their middle school band. Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

The bongos are stacked, the guitars are shelved and instruments are stuffed into the closet at I.S. 171 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. Without music instruction, there is no school band.

The school had a band until the end of last school year, as part of an after-school program run by the Cypress Hill Local Development Corporation.

"Last year was the first opportunity they had to perform for the graduation," said after-school program director Larry Acosta. "The eighth graders were walking in to the band members playing, and it was really exciting."

This year, the Cypress Hill LDC says because of state budget cuts there is no money for music lessons.

It had contracted out professional musicians from the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. About 35 children received free instruction twice a week after school and took their instruments home to practice.

"I know how to play classic songs like Beethoven. I play jazz," said one student.

"I think I have a career in front of me," said another.

To help get the band program started again, the corporation kicked of a fundraising campaign. It includes a website (indiegogo.com/savetheband) and a funding challenge of $38,000 to provide six teachers, twice a week, for 20 weeks.

"We got contacted by Wynton Marsalis and his co-director at Jazz at Lincoln Center and they've committed, if we raise $28,000, that they will put in the final $10,000 for the total of $38,000, which is what it cost to do a full band program," said Rob Abbot of the Cypress Hills LDC.

On Tuesday night, people from Cypress Hills came to The Bell House in Gowanus for a "Talent Show Brand Variety Show," and money from the performance was donated to the band program.

"I think we really appreciate how important arts education was to us coming from public school background," said Kevin Townley, the talent show's producer.

The show earned $2,500 towards the goal, to help young musicians at I.S. 171 perform for the school's graduation once again.

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