Skip to Content

South Carolina Honors College

Play It Again South Carolina

by Aiden Gavin Johnson

Jazz has played and continues to play a large role in South Carolina’s history. Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, a Cheraw native, helped revolutionize jazz trumpet and heavily influenced the genre by helping develop bebop. The next Dizzy Gillespie may already be here, waiting to play their first instrument. Unfortunately, they might never have the opportunity to play one. 

Beyond musical appreciation, playing an instrument promotes analytical thinking and can act as an outlet for stress. Music also expands a student’s social circle by introducing them to other people who play instruments and love music.  

I was given the opportunity to play the piano when I was four years old and have continued playing to this day. Around nine years old I was introduced to jazz and quickly took a liking to it. Jazz offered an important intellectual and emotional outlet. It helped make up for other parts of my life that were lacking. My experience has shown me the importance of the opportunity to play music. It is unfortunate that others do not have the same opportunity. 

In 2016, sixty percent of South Carolina students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, the National Center for Education Statistics reported. The inability to afford full-price lunches indicates financial instability. Instruments are expensive and often economically challenged students are not able to afford them. For instance, a used trumpet on eBay costs an average of two hundred dollars. This is generally beyond the financial reach of these disadvantaged students. 

Play It Again South Carolina is my idea for a statewide instrument donation program designed to encourage both graduating students and their parents to donate instruments. After graduation, many students leave their instruments to collect dust. Play It Again South Carolina provides an alternative. Collection events can be held at various schools across the state. After these collection events, volunteers will clean the instruments. These volunteers can consist of adults and students needing service hours. After cleaning, instruments will be stored until the next school year starts. At school registration, students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches can sign up to receive instruments.  

Although other instrument donation programs exist elsewhere in the country, they are either not based in South Carolina or widely promoted. Locally focused, Play It Again South Carolina would collaborate with television and radio stations as well as third-party advertisers. These advertisers would create public service announcements to be broadcast and pay for the printing of posters to be placed in schools to advertise end-of-year collections. The advertisements will include collection information and promote third-party sponsors. Potential third-party sponsors may include music stores, chain restaurants, car dealers, large corporations, and various other businesses eager to support local education opportunities.  

This South Carolina based program would create a unique partnership between businesses, educators, communities, volunteers, and students. It fulfills a need for students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to play an instrument.  

Dizzy Gillespie had a unique advantage. He was fortunate enough to have access to instruments at a young age because his father was a bandleader. Many other children don’t have this opportunity and their talent often goes unnoticed. Play It Again South Carolina taps into a readily available resource of playable instruments to help enrich students’ educations. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.