Harlee Crossett has always known she wanted to pursue music professionally, right from the first moment she picked up a flute.
So, when her teachers and a handful of friendly strangers surprised Crossett with an upgraded instrument during band class Thursday afternoon at Free State High School, the 15-year-old understandably got a little emotional.
“It’s everything to me,” Crossett said of her new flute, which she applied for several weeks ago through Band of Angels, a Kansas City-based nonprofit that refurbishes donated instruments and distributes them to students in need.
Melissa Smith, Free State’s assistant director of bands, encouraged Crossett and fellow band student Gabriel Leverette to apply for the program. With Smith’s recommendation, the two were awarded their own lovingly restored instruments Thursday in a surprise presentation in front of their classmates, teachers and family.
The instruments also came with an opportunity for the students to attend a summer band camp of their choice on scholarship from Band of Angels.
“It will allow me to go to a lot of places that I might not have been able to go to,” said Crossett, a sophomore, who hopes to take her new flute with her to The Juilliard School someday.
Mike Meyer, of Kansas City’s Meyer Music stores, launched Band of Angels seven years ago with Kansas City’s FOX 4 television station. So far, the program has distributed some 1,700 instruments to students in need across Kansas and Missouri, Meyer said.
Need, whether it be financial or emotional, knows no zip code or state line, he said — even in relatively stable, middle-class schools like Free State.
“I think the biggest message is, there’s a whole community of people you’ve never met, you’ve never seen, who care about you,” Meyer said. “And they have come out of their closets and their bedrooms and their houses and their basements, and they’ve donated these instruments so that (those instruments) can have a new life with somebody else.”
After five years with his brother’s trumpet, Leverette was well past due for an upgrade. The 16-year-old junior hopes to study music theory and composition in college, and he’ll need a good-quality instrument to get him through.
“It’s really motivating,” Leverette said of his new trumpet. “I didn’t think I’d ever have enough money to get a trumpet on my own.”
“I just love music,” he added. “It’s a part of me now.”