Helping you with your music

Maintain your sense of sustainability

3rd June 2019

The recent election in Australia has shown that climate change is one of the major concerns facing our children and future generations. The Earth has warmed by an average of 1°C in the last century. This might not sound like much but the impact from changing weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding is global in scope and unprecedented in scale. 

So what can we do as music educators?  The obvious answer is consume less and reduce waste. Yet putting this into practice requires some lateral thinking and some knowledge about how to recycle our department’s waste – instruments, equipment, unwanted print music and performance uniforms (if applicable).

All musical instruments are made of materials of some kind.

Stringed instruments such as guitars, violins, pianos etc. as well as certain wind instruments (e.g. some clarinets) and many percussion instruments (drums and marimbas) are made of wood.  Generally this wood is sourced from a limited number of tree species that assist with tonal characteristics and properties.

Take the average violin for example.  Made primarily of wood a violin can use up to 70 pieces of wood, from 10 different kinds of trees.  So if we look after just one of these instruments, maintain it in good working order and prolong it’s usability then we can help the environment.

Multiply this out when you think about your school’s orchestra or bands and the additional wooden instruments – violas, cellos, double basses, and pianos. The amount of wood consumed is massive. More wood so more trees are destroyed.

If you can imagine what a difference you can make if the life of just one instrument was prolonged, consider what a difference a band or a whole music department could make, especially when you consider that a school could have up to 500 instruments or more.

To preserve the life of an instrument sounds easy but really requires developing a cultural and behavioural change:

  • Teaching the students to respect their instrument and empowering them to handle it appropriately.
The life of a band or orchestra instrument in the care of a young or teenager musician is risky at the best of times. Teaching them early about the value of the instrument is essential. As teachers of music it is our role to ensure that these budding musicians know their instrument – how to assemble it, how to clean and maintain it, how to handle it between performances and during performances.

  • Providing a safe and appropriate space to house instruments when on site at the school.
Instruments should be kept in a location where students will not trip over them, and where the instrument is unlikely to fall or have things fall on it.

A dedicated and secure area to store student instruments when they are at the school will help prevent damage. The provision of shelving can be helpful as shelves enable students to store their instruments on a flat surface off the ground.  Providing instrument specific stands such as guitar stands or utilising a wall space to hang them are also useful for storing instruments safely.

Additional precautions for storing school instruments over long periods of time can be found at Life Storage.

  • Introducing a regular preventative maintenance program for the instruments that are on loan from the school.

Schedule instruments for repairs when damage is first noticed and ensure all loan instruments undergo a professional maintenance check yearly.

Once an instrument is no longer functional they can be recycled by:

  1. donating them to other organisations and countries in need
  2. turning them into something creative or
  3. simply recycling in your local recycling facility those instruments made primarily of wood or metal.

Remember even the metal in pianos can be recycled.

Taking on these small changes and your contribution will be significant … both your students and the world will thank you.

In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket - David Suzuki

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Optimo Software Pty Ltd ~ Optimo Systems
PO Box 154
Mona Vale NSW 1660

+61 2 9940 0229