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Old Instruments lead to new tunes and new hope for students in Hillsborough County

Posted at 3:36 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 16:06:06-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Travis Damato’s 5th grade music class at Muller Elementary School is slowly improving, one pluck of the string at a time.

“They are just so excited to get up on stage and show it off for their friends and for their family,” said Damato.

His young performers aren’t just developing an ear for music, they are learning valuable life lessons.

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“Learning the instrument has helped me with confidence,” said student Savannah Stone. “I think all kids should learn to play an instrument because it really helps to strengthen their body and their mind.”

Before you can strike the chords of a base, cello or violin, you have to figure out how to get your hands on one.

“A lot of our students don’t have the money or the space or the means to get an instrument home,” said Damato.

That’s where the non-profit organization Recycled Tunes comes into play.

“Our mission is to make sure every child in the Tampa Bay area has access to an instrument,” said director Cameron Williams. “We collect instruments from people in the community, that might have an instrument in their closet or under their bed, that’s not being used.”

In the past year, Recycled Tunes provided more than 400 instruments to 30 different schools. In the case of Muller Elementary, a title one school, they provided more than $1,700 of new strings.

“New strings are extremely good, and they sound great, old strings are all squeaky. I don’t want to sound like a mouse,” said student Codru Lawrence.

Recycled Tunes is part of the Gasparilla Music Foundation. Proceeds from the Gasparilla Music Festival, which takes place March 7 and 8, will go back into the Recycled Tunes program. For more information go to