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Park Rapids Rotary launches first international project

A youngster learns to play the marimba by ear at a music conservatory in Esmeraldas, Ecuador. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
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A cornet and two trombones recently journeyed some 3,300 miles from Park Rapids to Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

The musical instruments are the first of many that the Park Rapids Rotary Club hopes to donate to impoverished children in Esmeraldas, a coastal city in northwestern Ecuador.

"They don't have any fine arts in their schools. It's not part of their curriculum," explained Rotarian Missy Lindow. "Now we're in the early stages of the project, but it's an amazing opportunity."

Earlier this month, Lindow and her family hand-delivered the brass instruments to a youth music conservatory in Esmeraldas. The free program teaches instrumental music, vocal lessons and dance — all in an effort to get kids off the streets. The students range from 5 years old to 15.

Park Rapids Rotarians contributed the first batch of instruments. Dave Konshok Sr. donated the cornet he played during his Navy service.

"Even though the instrument was quite old, Milton Hanson, owner of RPT Music, made sure it was in working order," said Irene Weis. She gave away a trombone, as did Ed Ranson.

"It's a new Rotary project. We've never done our own international project," Ranson said.

Last fall, he and fellow Rotarian Dave Anderson went on a scouting mission to Ecuador to explore how the Park Rapids Rotary Club could help. The club is collaborating with local Rotarians in Ecuador on the project.

A powerful, 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador in April 2016. The province was ground zero, the epicenter just 70 miles south of Esmeraldas. The music conservatory was forced to move into an abandoned school "probably adequate for what they do, but it's really grungy, beat up," said Ranson. "The paint is 50 years old."

Its sole piano was ruined. The building experienced some structural damage during the quake. The Lindows observed cracks during their visit this month.

"In Esmeraldas, it's a poor city. They've got a lot of problems with gang membership," said Ranson. "No resources whatsoever. Instruments are difficult to find down there. There's this motley collection of drums."

In addition to collecting more instruments, Park Rapids Rotary plans to fix up the conservatory and send guest teachers. Several Rotarians — Paul Dove and Roz Pederson, for example — want to share their musical expertise.

"We have a lot of Rotary members who are eager to help," Lindow said.

Currently, Rotary is specifically looking for brass and woodwind instruments, not stringed instruments. Electric guitars, basses, keyboards, even an upright piano, are welcome. All would be sent to Ecuador in a shipping container.

Hanson will repair instruments for the project at a discounted price. He'll also appraise instruments and provide receipts since they are tax-deductible contributions.

To donate an instrument to the Rotary Ecuador Musical Instrument Project, contact Irene Weis at 732-8271 or ilweis@arvig.net.

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