Photo by Gary Anderson
Article by Noah Essenmacher

DStreet Entertainment Foundation is giving used and refurbished instruments new life in the hands of striving local musicians through the Bandwagon Program. With its first approved budget, Bandwagon aims to expand its operation to support these artists in need. Bandwagon supports DStreet’s overall mission to "assist musicians and artists of every age, race and gender in the development of their education, promotional skills and performances."

Bandwagon director Joe Caudy says the DStreet Board is an eclectic group of business-oriented music lovers. "We’ve got a nice mix of people who at one time were musicians, are musicians or are striving to be musicians," he says. "Dennis [Beason] is now our chairman, and he plays with his own band, The Sinclairs. He can relate. He knows the importance of trying to strive as a local musician in this area."

Caudy works with Bandwagon volunteers to collect donated instruments for the nonprofit’s instrument library. Donations come from a variety of sources: the collections of former musicians, the attics of local residents, and the stock of eBay sellers. Volunteers will collect donations at DStreet-promoted events this summer. Find them at Parkapalooza 6 on Sunday, September 12, at Sanford Lake Park in Midland County and at the Labadie Pig Gig from Thursday, August 5th, through Sunday, August 8th, in Veteran’s Memorial Park in downtown Bay City.

"We’ve got some instruments I would not have imagined us having," says Caudy. Bandwagon’s library currently consists of 12 instruments, including a Fender jazz bass guitar, a pair of miniature violins, a vintage accordion, trumpets, a flute, a clarinet and a starter xylophone.

Caudy says there is a story behind every instrument donated. "The accordian. That lady told me stories and stories about how her uncle used to serenade them on the back porch with that accordion," says Caudy. "That accordion has history. It’s almost 60 years old. … It’s used, and we want to keep on using it."

Once the instruments are collected, DStreet funds their refurbishment and repair. Bandwagon’s new budget will help to expedite the restoration process and to get the instruments to people more quickly. "Our library is starting to build," says Caudy. “We’re in that phase where it's time to get this thing rolling."

The number of applicants for these instruments is growing as well. Local musicians are applying to receive instruments, which they can keep or return to the library later. "Essentially everything we do gives to somebody," says Caudy. "With the economy getting even tougher and people struggling, it's an easy way to obtain an instrument." Bandwagon particularly benefits student musicians, as school budget cuts often affect school bands, music programs, and art curriculums before sports and faculty. "I played band through high school,” says Caudy. "I played the trumpet, so I [remember] my mom complaining about making that monthly instrument payment … with braces, car payments and insurance, it was expensive."
Caudy says that when young adults with a passion for music receive instruments that are not so much borrowed as owned, they treat those instruments with remarkable respect and responsibility. "They treat [the instruments] like most men treat [their] cars, [their] trophies,” says Caudy. "This is their trophy."

Caudy has seen first-hand the success of Bandwagon. He had the opportunity to deliver a trumpet to an approved applicant. "She was in one of those situations where during junior high she was given an instrument, but when she went into high school, she had to have her own," he says. "She whipped it right out and threw the mouthpiece in. That little girl was probably the happiest anyone had ever seen her. It brought a tear to her mother’s eyes. That little girl marched up and down the sidewalk outside the apartment playing that instrument. And that made me feel good."

© Noah Essenmacher, 2010