Instruments Beyond Borders

MUSIC RISING by Bruce Mason

Vancouver’s Instruments Beyond Borders delivers donated musical instruments to disadvantaged kids across the globe, including those at the Saint James Music Academy in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver’s Instruments Beyond Borders delivers donated musical instruments to disadvantaged kids across the globe, including those at the Saint James Music Academy in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Warning! This story may be addictive and you’ll be hooked into wanting much more. Symptoms include clapping, shouting, dancing and jumping for joy. Frantically searching for unused musical instruments in dark corners. Craving and purchasing a ticket to one of the most satisfying evenings of your life. Feeling as turned on as when you hear your all-time favourite song. Twice.

There are people changing the world, big-time, one child and one instrument at a time, right here, right now. And they’re getting together for a show-stopping fundraiser on May 13 at SFU’s Wong Theatre downtown. But hold the drum roll; here’s an intro and background – some music for your ears.

Instruments Beyond Borders is a registered, non-profit, Vancouver-based society that provides musical instruments to youth orchestras in disadvantaged communities at home and abroad. Since its inception in 2013, IBB has been transforming lives, delivering $40,000 worth of donated musical instruments into the keen hands of some of the most grateful, down-and-out kids on the planet, in Paraguay and here in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

IBB founder Janos Maté explains, “We aim to help harness the power of music to improve the lives of children and there are thousands of dormant musical instruments unused in closets, basements attics and other places, just waiting to come alive in the hands of aspiring young musicians.”

The young musicians of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay – aka Landfill Harmonic – play instruments made from the recycled garbage upon which their hometown is built. Favio Chávez, founder and director of the Recycled Orchestra, says, “We are so thankful for all your efforts to contribute to our orchestra and its members. It is so good to hear about the gala in May and hope it will be a success.”

On Cordova Street, hundreds of joyful children take part in after-school music lessons from professional teachers at the Saint James Music Academy. In addition to having the time of their lives, these kids also receive a nutritious meal.

Prussin Music (3607 W. Broadway, 604 736-3036) is a key player in the ongoing IBB project. The store launched “Instruments for Change” in February of 2013 and received offers of flutes, violins, trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, a cello, orchestral xylophone, guitar, auto-harp and a baritone horn, from as far away as Seattle.

Because they can’t ship pianos and large harps, Prussin has some of the donated instruments for sale to raise funds and offers deep discount rates for others. And there is a wish list. For example, violins range from $50 to $100, trumpets and trombones, $200. In the words of one of the recipients, “Without music, I would have nothing.”

Don’t miss seeing the fascinating, hand-made, recycled violin from Landfill Harmonic, given in appreciation and proudly displayed in a glass case. It’s one of few ever given to anyone. Other recipients include Queen Sofia of Spain, Jimmy Carter, Princess Beatrix (former Queen of the Netherlands), Archbishop Claudio Mario Celli, Robert Pattinson and the Museums of Musical Instruments in both Phoenix and Berlin.

Chávez shared news that a documentary entitled Landfill Harmonic, which tells the remarkable story of the orchestra, is making the film festival rounds, including New York and Toronto. It’s already earned the “Audience Award” in Austin, Texas, and was among the favourite stories in the distinguished career of the late Bob Simon, who brought worldwide fame and attention in his report for 60 Minutes.

Performers at the IBB fundraiser include Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies, an avid violinist who has also donated instruments. He took lessons at age six and believes every child should have access to music, which has profoundly enriched his life.

Highlights include the Saint James Music Academy choir and fiddlers and the renowned Borealis String Quartet. The evening will be hosted by popular Vancouver actor Dan Payne and Global TV’s Lynn Colliar. Among the long list of performers are Cam Wilson, Finn Manniche and Brent Gubbels of Van Django, Ryan Guldemond, Jasmin Parkin, Colleen Rennison, Chin Injeti, Tonye Aganaba and more.

Watch for an upcoming Common Ground feature on the Saint James Music Academy. For more information and links (including the doc trailer), please visit

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic.

May 13: Instruments Beyond Borders fundraiser, 7pm, Fei & Milton Wong Theatre, SFU downtown, 149 E. Hastings St. Tickets $30; $35/door. Order online at


For tickets and more information on Saint James Music Academy, visit

Re the Landfill Harmonic movie check out

For more info on Prussin Music:

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