"I've been in this business 37 years, never seen anything like this," Parker, owner of the Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology, said.
Organizers with Colorado Public Radio aimed at collecting gently used musical instruments to have them refurbished and sent to schools in lower income areas.
"Three hundred and fifty [instruments] would've been great, would've been a home run," Steve Blatt, director of community programs for Colorado Public Radio, said.
The month-long drive in March garnered more than that.
"The reality was 1,300 instruments from all over Colorado," Blatt said. "They just kept coming."
Parker thought he and his students and former students could handle a job of about 400 instruments. He had to make major adjustments.
"Even though we're a little overwhelmed, we have 11 technicians working on these instruments getting them ready," Parker said.
CIOMET is fixing more than half of the instruments for free, the other half for minimal costs collected from monetary donations given to the Colorado Public Radio drive. Blatt says the sheer numbers have not curbed Parker's enthusiasm for the project.
"We never heard one word of complaint or reluctance or resistance," Blatt said. "It was always, 'We're glad to help.'"
Out of all the instruments donated, Parker says probably 90 percent of them can be restored back to good playing condition. Overall, the worth of the instruments that will be headed to the schools is upwards of $450,000.
"When a student gets it, they've got, on a clarinet, for example, they've got a cleaned instrument that plays correctly, that has a sterilized mouthpiece, has a reed ready for him to go," Parker said.
Not all of the donated instruments can be sent to schools. Some pieces are rare or eclectic. Blatt says some have histories dating back more than 100 years.
"For a lot of these people, it was like giving up a good friend that they had for years," Blatt said. "There are a lot of tears. We were surprised when we asked people, 'Can you tell us the story?'"
For the rare or collectible pieces, Parker says they can be sold and that money will be used to purchase other instruments for the students.
"One flute can turn into 30 violins," Parker said. "So, the donation of one can make 30 kids play instruments."
Blatt says a big part of the drive's success is due to partnerships across the state. Music stores promoted the project: HB Woodsongs in Boulder, Denver Folklore Center, Flesher-Hinson Music in Denver, Kolacny Music in Denver, The Music Box in Denver, Rockley Music Company in Lakewood, and the Golden Music Center in Golden. The Grand Junction Symphony also helped.
"Folks who love music, who really want to support kids, who think that music in the schools is important, and that's really what this is all about," Blatt said.
Colorado Public Radio plans to start distributing instruments next school year. It will work with the Mr. Holland's Opus foundation to find schools in need. Title One schools can apply for instruments at www.cpr.org. So far, 25 schools around Colorado have filled out applications.
"We're done collecting, let me put it that way," Blatt said. "Save them, save them for next year."
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)