MINNEAPOLIS -- Students move through the cafeteria and onto the stage, instruments in hand. It's not a conventional band room, but neither is the band program at Hiawatha College Prep, a Minneapolis charter school.
"We went from zero to 78," said instructor Elizabeth Winslow, who not only directs the band, she built it.
"I reached out on Craig's List, saying 'I know you're selling this instrument, but would you consider donating it?'"
Winslow was hired to build the program, which is run on a shoe string. Pricey band instruments are not an impediment to students whose families might find the cost too steep at another school.
Winslow is shameless about asking people to donate their old instruments. Local businesses helped buy new ones. The end result? Eager band students who aren't turned away because of cost.
Winslow believes the effort is paying off in the classroom. "It's not as measurable as an MCA score," she said, "but we've all seen a huge growth in so many of our kids this year."
Seventh grader Diego Lopez is one of just a handful of students who have previous band experience. It says playing the trombone makes him calm. "I feel like I'm comfortable with my surroundings."
They've only had a few months to play together, but under Winslow's sharp eye, students are proving they can overcome a steep learning curve.
Winslow is expecting her numbers to grow even larger next year, which means working the phones to procure more instruments.
"Flutes, clarinets, trumpets, saxophones, trombones," said Winslow.
If you'd like to donate an instrument, or make a monetary donation to the band, you can reach Winslow through the school's online donation page.