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Students at Bunche Middle School were in complete shock when surprise visitors interrupted their music class to deliver brand-new instruments to them. It was like an early Christmas wish come true when representatives from The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (MHOF) and The Giving Challenge visited the classroom bearing gifts, which included three clarinets, one flute, one trumpet, one cello and four violins.
It all started when Keith and Mariela Kleiner decided to start their own challenge, inspired by Oprah’s ‘Pay It Forward’ Challenge.
Last year, the couple gave 20 of their friends and family $1000 each to spend toward helping someone else. Thus, The Giving Challenge was born and Kaveh and Tova Cohen were one of the recipients. Because of Kaveh’s passion for music, especially as a reputable Hollywood music composer, the Cohen family chose to support music education. They contacted MHOF, who already had a partnership with Compton Unified School District (CUSD) through Lanette White, the district’s Visual & Performing Arts Administrator. White led the donors to Bunche Middle School, based on the dedication and tenacity of a young music teacher, Manuel Castaneda, coupled with his rapidly growing music program that was in need of instruments to accommodate its excited future musicians.
“Music is a wonderful and necessary gift for all children,” said Kaveh Cohen. “We are so glad to be able to give this gift, even if only to a few at a time, to the deserving children of Bunche Middle School.”
The Cohen family threw in an extra $500 of their own money so that more instruments could be purchased.
“I wish it could be more, but hopefully we will have the opportunity to continue doing this in the future,” said Tova Cohen.
The couple also brought with them their talented friends from the music business—fellow musicians/
composers Eric Jackson and Ralph Churchwell. The group not only delivered the instruments, but also took time to speak to the students about their careers, participating in Q&A sessions and interviews for the school newspaper.
The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation supports music education and its many benefits through the donation and repair of musical instruments to underserved schools, community music programs and individual students nationwide. In the last ten years, new and refurbished instruments with a value of $5.5 million have been donated to over 769 schools and community music programs across the country. Additionally, the foundation has given $3 million worth of instruments to 101 schools affected by Hurricane Katrina.