Local Instrument Program Provides Scholarships, Lessons, Instruments to Students
Extra-curricular activities are one part of school that almost every student enjoys. Unfortunately, some children can’t participate for one reason or another. Jacob Keen, a student at Knox High School, was one such student. As much as he wanted to join the music program, his mother couldn’t afford to buy or rent an instrument for him. The band director recognized in Keen a desire and drive to learn and wanted to help. So, Keen joined Drew’s Gift of Music Instrument Program.
Drew’s Gift of Music is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships, lesson and musical instruments of all types — wind, brass, strings, and percussion — to students. All of the instruments in the program are donated to the organization, then cleaned and repaired before placed in the hands of students.
Deb Johnson, the director, started Drew’s Gift less than a year after her son, Drew Shearin, died in a car accident at the age of 17 in 2012. It was a moment in time that changed Johnson’s life forever.
“His warm laugh and smile, quick wit and drive to give of himself made him a special person. He had a way of making everyone feel important and share their talents as well,” reads his biography on their website.
Shearin was a music prodigy in his own right. While still in high school, he submitted original compositions to the Indiana Music Educators Association’s Composition Competition, winning first place in 2010 and in 2012. He had plans to pursue a musical degree and career. Even though the world lost a musical genius when Shearin passed away, his love for music has been kept alive through his mother’s efforts.
Currently, students in more than 30 school systems in Indiana and Michigan use instruments from this organization.
“The band director is the one who gets the instrument request form. [Students] have to go through their school band program,” Johnson says.
Johnson processes hundreds of requests for student instruments every year. Every so often, one stands out. In 2013, Jacob Keen’s was one of them. As soon as she heard about him, she knew which trumpet to assign to him.
The horn — a Blessing Horn by brand as well as metaphorically — was a new donation that, in and of itself, represents the mission of Drew’s Gift.
“A lady from Louisiana lost her son, Dylan, in a car accident six months after Drew died,” Johnson says. “When she found our story, she knew that she was supposed to send Dylan’s horn up to us. That is the horn that Jacob received.”
For Keen, joining Drew’s Gift of Music was a life-changer.
“The start of my musical journey sparked my passion for music,” he says.
When he was given that first trumpet, he was in the sixth grade.
Within a few years, he grew out of the Blessings horn, at which point he was lent an intermediate horn, also through Drew’s Gift.
“At that point, he said to me, ‘Do I have to give back Dylan’s horn? I feel, when I play this horn, that I’m playing for Dylan and Drew,” Johnson recalls. “I said, ‘Not if you don’t want to. Keep the horn as long as you need to.’”
Just a few years later, Drew’s Gift advanced him to a professional horn.
Last spring, Keen graduated from high school after spending seven years in Knox High School’s music program. During that time, he has not only proved his musical genius many times over, but he started to give back by helping the brass repairman with the instruments and by giving lessons to less experienced musicians through the Music Recycled Program, which Johnson hopes to expand to more schools in the near future. Thanks to two of the scholarships that Drew’s Gift offers, Keen will be going into Musical Education at Valparaiso University.
Because of the connection that Keen has with his first trumpet, he has been allowed to keep it for now.
“As I gave him his scholarships he asked, ‘Do I have to give Dylan’s horn to somebody?’” Johnson says. “I said, ‘Tell you what, you hang onto it until we find that student — and we will find them — that is ready to accept the gift of that horn. Then you and I will give it to them.”
Drew’s Gift is always looking for volunteers and instrument donations. To become a Musical Note Monthly Sponsor to enable other students to begin their musical journey, visit their website at drewsgiftofmusic.com.
Drew’s Gift of Music is located at 1019 W. Jefferson St. in Plymouth. They are open 12-5 Monday through Thursday and 10 am to 12 pm on Saturday. To read their latest updates, visit Facebook.com/DrewsGiftOfMusic. Call the shop to set up an appointment to get your instrument repaired or to learn more about their programs at 574-936-4265.