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Staff File Photo / Giants Steps in Hixson has partnered with SoundCorps to raise funds to buy new equipment and repairs old instruments in Hamilton County band programs. The goal is to raise $500,000 over the next five years.

Since 1977, Giant Steps Music in Hixson has been selling new instruments and repairing old ones for students and area high school band programs. That experience has given its workers an insider's look at the needs of many of those programs.

Now the business has partnered with SoundCorps, a local music advocacy nonprofit, to raise $100,000 per year over the next five years to help meet those needs.

"Hamilton County hasn't really put much effort into buying new equipment since the early '90s, and the stuff that comes into us is in such bad shape much of it just needs to be thrown away," said Andy Bailey, Giant Steps general manager.

He said he and owner Mike Bouer and executive assistant Chris Epperson began talking about ways to help a couple of years ago after watching a local high school participate in the televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"We saw these other schools and their equipment all looked shiny and new and the ones our kids had looked rough," Bailey said.

Bailey said the three are in the process of assessing each of the 40 Hamilton County public schools with band programs to identify their actual needs and then will look at how best to prioritize and address those needs.

Some programs are in worse shape with greater needs than others, he said, and part of the process will be to figure out a plan.

"We will do the evaluations and put together a database," Bailey said. "It will be yearly for now, but it might be every other year later on, and this may spread beyond a five-year plan."

While $100,000 is a lot of money, it can be eaten up quickly by the high costs of quality band instruments. Drums, for example, can run $2,000-$3,000 each, and an entire drum line can cost between $20,000-$30,000 when harnesses, carriers and protective coverings for practice are factored in.

Concert tubas start around $3,500 and average $6,000, he said.

"You can quickly see where the money goes," Bailey said.

Quality instruments can last 15 to 20 years, he added, and many of the local programs are looking to upgrade and add needed instruments that help them score better at band competitions.

Some of the money raised also will go toward repairs of current instruments.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, SoundCorps was brought on to handle the financial side of the fundraising project.

"They wanted to raise money to buy new instruments, and once they explained the need we were happy to get involved," said SoundCorps Executive Director Stratton Tingle.

"The needs are great."

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Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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