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CPS Music Teacher’s Outreach Helps Replace Stolen Instruments

(Flickr / Feliciano Guimarães)(Flickr / Feliciano Guimarães)

The Chicago Public Schools system is no stranger to musical accompaniment.

Chance the Rapper has contributed millions of dollars to the district through his nonprofit, SocialWorks. Common is backing a recently approved arts-focused charter school on the South Side and his mother, Mahalia Hines, sits upon the city’s Board of Education. Even Pusha T was on board as Curie High School opened a new recording studio last year.

But after thousands of dollars’ worth of instruments were stolen from Fulton Elementary on the South Side earlier this year, a music teacher extended his reach across the city and beyond for some extra help.

Timothy King had been planning a guitar lesson for his students at the Back of the Yards neighborhood school in September. But when he opened his classroom, he found it had been ransacked.

“I had a class right that morning, like right when I got there, so it wasn’t like I had a break before processing all of this and then teaching the kids,” he said. “It was just like right there, and they sort of witnessed the panic and everything.”

In all, about 30 instruments, worth around $2,700, were missing. King said he filed a report with the Chicago Police Department and reached out to the district for help. But weeks went by and the missing instruments had not been found, nor replaced.

King decided to reach out to the community for help and contacted a reporter at the Chicago Tribune to write a story about his school’s situation. But Fulton administration was initially hesitant about publicizing the theft.

“I understand to some extent,” King said, “but at the same time I’m thinking if I don’t say anything then nothing is going to happen for us and nothing is going to get recovered.”

King decided to go ahead with the story, which the Tribune published Tuesday. He also created a Gofundme page that night with a goal of $5,000 – a total that was met and exceeded in just a few hours.

He ended up raising about $7,000 through that account, and a second Gofundme reached its $2,700 goal in less than a day. That money will be used not only to replace the lost instruments, King said, but also go toward the purchase of storage lockers and insurance to keep them safe.

After seeing the Tribune story, recording artist Josh Groban tweeted: “This is exactly what I created @FYLFoundation for and we’d be happy to replace the instruments should they call on us.”

His foundation, Find Your Light, has helped fund arts education programming at dozens of schools across the country. That includes another CPS school, Chalmers Elementary on the West Side, which he visited in 2014.

CPS responded a day after Groban’s tweet with a message from its official account asking: “Umm. Can we call on you?”

King said he was the first to reach out to Groban and his foundation, and said the two sides are working together on a possible donation.

“We certainly want to help them however we can,” a Find Your Light foundation spokesman said in an email.

But they aren’t the only ones trying to replace the stolen goods. Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of the Chicago-based alternative-rock band Wilco, offered up some of his own instruments after local Patrick Monaghan reached out on Twitter seeking donations from the community.

Monaghan himself dropped off eight guitars, four amps, three ukuleles, a drum set and other equipment at the school Wednesday.

King has spent this week collecting donated instruments from residents across Chicago and is expecting that work to continue through the weekend.

“It’s been a busy week,” he said, “but I’m definitely not complaining about it because I mean it’s working out the way I hoped that it would.”

Contact Matt Masterson: | (773) 509-5431

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