Cal-Nevada's "Music Man" delivers
It wasn’t just a vision of a band that Sarge Wright, a benevolent version of Professor Harold Hill, carried with him to
The 86-year-old Wright – a chaplain, retired clergy member in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, and member of the Carmichael Kiwanis Club – enlisted the aid of fellow UMs and Kiwanians to collect the instruments for the Karnofsky Project, launched by a retired postal inspector from
“He gave it to Louis Armstrong,” The New Orleans Times-Picayune quotes Strasburg as saying, “who turned out to be a pretty good cornet player.”
The instruments donated here were shipped to
Wright says many United Methodist Volunteers in
That the instruments could be simply picked up and played on the spot is a tribute to the condition in which they were given.
“The band leaders and officials of the city were … gratified for the excellent condition of many instruments which were immediately usable even after years of use or storage in a closet somewhere,” Wright notes.
Saying, “All of these instruments have a story,” Wright showed the young people some of those he considers especially meaningful: a clarinet donated by the wife of a man who played with Miles Davis, for instance, and a saxophone given by the father of a young sax player who died in a car accident, in memory of his son. The instruments already have been put to use at the community center’s summer camp and will be used in its after-school program in the fall. Afterward, Trent Strasburg says, the program will expand to other parishes (counties) and he hopes Sarge Wright’s work will inspire similar efforts in other states.
City officials presented Wright with a proclamation as a gesture of appreciation. While calling the experience “one of the highlights of my life,” Wright says he also was filled with heartache at what
“The city has lost thousands of its school teachers, police and fire veterans who cannot return because of a lack of housing …. At least one fourth of
Still, there are hopeful signs. He notes that hundreds of rehabilitated homes and Habitat for Humanity houses have become available, some small businesses are opening, and “Many white and black leaders are committed to a process of rebuilding the damaged city and ridding it of some of the ills which plagued the area for decades,” he says.
Wright says he is “elated” that 41,000 volunteers from this country and abroad “have given long and arduous days of labor in rebuilding many of the homes,” providing some badly needed hope. It is an illustration, he says, of Nehemiah 2:18: “‘Let us rise up and build.’ And they set their hands to do this good work.”
– Sheila Stroup of The New Orleans Times-Picayune contributed to this story.