Burnaby music program for kids again looking for instruments

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Punk rock, city councilor and Harmony For All organizer Joe Keithley has high hopes for the delivery of the instruments on Saturday

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Two years ago, Burnaby City Councilor Joe Keithley called on people to donate their old musical instruments.

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The idea was to use them in Harmony For All, a new program aimed at giving children who cannot afford an instrument the chance to play one and take lessons.

The response has been incredible.

“We have 170,” Keithley said. “I was expecting 20, 30 or 40, and we felt overwhelmed. There was a line of people trying to donate stuff.

“It’s like people are looking in their closet (and thinking) ‘I haven’t played this in years, and if a kid can play this, that’s great. “”

Unfortunately, the program never started.

“We tried to get the instrument program through schools, but the schools were overwhelmed with COVID,” he says.

“About a month ago, I put this in the (civic) budget and presented it as a real municipal program, managed by the city. Which is great, because it means it’s moving forward no matter what.

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This Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Keithley and Burnaby firefighters will be picking up other instruments in the Burnaby City Hall parking lot at 4949 Canada Way.

“The only thing we don’t take are the upright pianos,” he said. “But nobody’s going to drag this with them, anyway.”

Last time around a huge variety of things were given.

“We probably have about 60-70 guitars,” he said. “About 15 to 20 electronic keyboards. We have saxophones, trumpets, clarinets. We even have drum kits. (One was from) an older lady, her husband was deceased who was a jazz drummer. I also got a full drum set from a guy from McRackens, a Vancouver punk band.

“The only thing we don’t know what to do with are accordions. We have three super cool accordions.

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They didn’t have bagpipes, which prompts Keithley to tell a story.

“There was a Scottish family next to where I grew up on Burnaby Mountain,” he said with a laugh. “They asked their daughter to learn the bagpipe. When she was training, they made her train on the back porch, so the neighborhood had to listen to her, not them.

Some instruments are being renovated, others are in storage pending use at the Shadbolt Center, where the program will be launched in a few months. The plan is to have the program in Burnaby schools next September as well.

Outside of Burnaby, Keithley is best known as the singer / guitarist of punk rock legends DOA. He turned 65 this year, but is still on tour when not concerned about Burnaby council.

Given DOA’s gritty sound, some may find it ironic that it is promoting a program called Harmony For All. When asked if he has ever sung a vocal harmony, he laughs.

“Hey, what are you talking about? Every time I get to a sound check, the sound manager asks me “How many voices?” I’m going ‘Three. We’re like the Beatles of punk rock. ‘”

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