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UL Lafayette professor in search of donated musical instruments for Dominican Republic students​​​​​​​

Dr. Benjamin Yates’ trombone isn’t the only instrument he’ll take to the Dominican Republic when he travels to the Caribbean nation to perform with professional orchestras.

Posted: Mar 19, 2021 9:20 AM

Dr. Benjamin Yates’ trombone isn’t the only instrument he’ll take to the Dominican Republic when he travels to the Caribbean nation to perform with professional orchestras.

The assistant professor in the School of Music and Performing Arts at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette plans to bring flutes, clarinets, saxophones, bassoons, oboes, trumpets, horns, violins, and other band instruments.

Yates needs help packing, though.

He’s seeking donated instruments – working instruments or those needing minor repairs – that will be passed on to student musicians in cities such as Santiago, La Vega, San Pedro de Macorís and Santo Domingo.

“Maybe you have a family member who started in band in fifth grade then dropped out on high school. Or, you’ve got an old instrument that’s been sitting in the attic forever that you don’t know what to do with. Whatever it may be, I can find a home for it,” Yates said.

He’s helping two professors from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa – Tony Guzman and Michael K. Smith – coordinate the donations. Yates studied under Guzman and Smith at the college, where he earned a bachelor's degree in music education and trombone performance in 2008.

The Dominican Trombonists Association invited the trio to be featured artists and clinicians at its 2021 conference from Aug. 4-8. They’ll play with the Moca Youth Concert Band and the La Vega Youth Symphony Orchestra and teach a master class.

They’ll also visit several community ensembles, groups of amateurs ranging from schoolchildren to adults that don’t receive funding from school systems or governments. They’ll provide instruction to the ensembles, and instruments for the students.

“It’s inconceivable to some of us, but many players in these ensembles don’t have the money to repair or replace instruments, so many of them are left with instruments that barely work,” Yates explained.

It’s a dynamic he’s seen firsthand. During a previous visit to the Dominican Republic, Yates “watched someone play a trombone that had a water key missing from the end of the slide. They plugged the hole with a piece of gum and wrapped some tape around it.”

The educators have also established a GoFundMe page with a $2,500 goal to cover repairs needed for donated instruments and shipping costs. Any money left over will be used to purchase “moderately-priced used instruments that are in working condition” from outlets such as eBay, Yates explained.

For more information about the project, where to bring instruments or how to donate, contact Yates at benjamin.yates@louisiana.edu or (337) 482-5219.

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