Phoenix Symphony and Grant Park Symphony bassist Jonathan Imsande outlined a really outstanding project idea to me this summer, and I’ve spent the last several weeks pondering exactly how this sort of thing would work. I know that is has enormous philanthropic potential, and I’ve held my blog tongue until I could mentally hash out some possible scenarios for its implementation.
Here’s the project in a nutshell:
- Professional bassists experiment with many different varieties of strings, often buying many sets per year.
- Professional-quality double bass strings are quite expensive, usually costing $100-200 (or even more) per set.
- Although most professional bassists change strings every 6-12 months, in reality these strings have usually not reached the end of their playing life.
- Over time, most professional bassists accumulate a small heap of old but still quite playable strings.
- These accumulated strings have a negligible resale value and are usually of little further use to the professional bassist.
- Basses in public schools are often equipped with very old, cheap, or otherwise unsuitable strings.
- Equipping a double bass with suitable strings can transform an instrument from an unplayable on to a playable one.
- Replacing double bass strings with professional-quality strings in a school program on a yearly basis may add upwards of $1000 to the budget of just one school, a prohibitive cost for programs in many districts.
Think about it–we bass players have heaps of old strings. Schools need strings. Strings help students learn faster, perform better, and derive more enjoyment from their musical experience. Students who enjoy their musical experiences are more likely to become arts supporters and audience members in the future.
Our piles of old strings could actually help to perpetuate our art form and ultimately keep us all in the green!
Jonathan’s brilliant idea is to institute a program allowing professional bassists to send their old strings (and ideally receiving a tax write-off in the process) to a central collection facility, where they are cleaned, repackaged, and sent to schools that need them.
This really is a win-win idea for professionals and students alike. Professionals get to clear out some space and know that their discarded equipment is helping to educate the next generation of musicians. Schools get to equip their instruments with professional-quality strings free of charge.
But here’s the hard part–implementation. How, exactly, would something like this operate? Who would collect the strings and organize their distribution to schools? How would schools submit themselves for consideration?
These are questions I’ve been looking into, and while I continue to formulate an implementation plan, I’d appreciate any input or feedback from the bass community at large. Let me know what you think!