Marching Mountains' goal is to create a network to supply public school band programs in distressed counties in Appalachia and Minnesota with donated new and used musical instruments.
Do you have an instrument at home not being used? Learn how to donate a musical instrument and change a child's life. (Marching Mountains is a 501(c)(3), tax-deductible organization.)
Each instrument costs $25 - $50 to ship to schools. Please donate money to help. (Marching Mountains is a 501(c)(3), tax-deductible organization.)
Learn more about Marching Mountains' vison and mission.
We have provided over 500 years of band to students. If you are a band director of a public school band program in Appalachia or Minnesota, be a part of Marching Mountains.
Learn more about what Marching Mountains does with instrument donations by watching videos
Do you want to help? Put your heart into something meaningful by volunteering
Each year we release an annual report to update those interested in the project.
Recently, I was at the airport getting ready to leave town for a while to take a vacation. While at the gate, I checked my voice mail one last time before being cut off from technology for several days. I was surprised to get a message from a woman in Connecticut, who wanted to donate a flute to the organization. I only had a few minutes before boarding, so I quickly returned her phone call, leaving a message in a bit of a panic; I wanted to give her enough information but felt rushed as I would be boarding the plane at any moment.
After I hung up, I resigned myself to the fact that I had lost that donation. In my mind, I must have sounded anxious and scattered, not really the type of message I typically leave for someone who is generously handing over an instrument to a stranger, an instrument that was likely prized by them or someone close to them.
When I returned from my vacation, I spoke with my mother, who informed me that a flute had arrived from Connecticut. My mother lives in Appalachia, and where she lives is much closer to the schools we work with. Donors who are able to may ship their donations to my mother’s house in West Virginia so that they’re much closer to the schools. This saves the organization precious funds when paying for shipping instruments to many schools across Appalachia.
I was surprised that my hurried voice mail had not put the donor off and felt very happy to have received the flute. Later on that week, I received a text message from my step-mother, who said she knew someone who knew someone who had a child that wanted to play the flute but who didn’t have the money to rent or buy one for her daughter.
This was a new situation for me. Typically, I work directly with band programs, not with parents, because I want the instruments to stay with a school and not possibly end up in someone’s closet, unused. I called the mother and explained this to her, letting her know I wanted to find a solution. I suggested that she give me the name of her daughter’s school and band director, adding that I would ship the flute to the band director with a letter that explained that the flute was for the woman’s daughter, Isabel, to use. As long as she was in band, the flute was hers to use. This means that even when she leaves elementary school and continues on to middle school, if she stays in band, she can take the flute with her. If she quits band, the flute stays with the band program so that another child can use it. The mother agreed.
I was at work when the conversation took place. After we hung up, I stopped and thought about what just took place. I realized what a special kind of person it is that calls someone to ask for help when they’re in a tough position. I thought about what this mother was doing by putting aside any feelings that would stop her from helping her daughter get a flute and calling me, not just once, but twice within the hour. She really wanted to get a hold of me! When I realized what I was experiencing in this chain of actions -- the generosity of the donor, the humility and determination of the mother, the kindness of the others involved in making the connections -- I teared-up in my cube and had to take a deep breath.
I wrote the letter, emailing it to my mother for her to print and package with the flute. She shipped it off that Monday. Now the flute is in the hands of Isabel, who gets to experience playing music with her friends, hopefully for many, many years.
One person who never met me wanted to donate a musical instrument -- a flute -- to Marching Mountains. With faith and hope, she made a simple, generous gesture. That flute is now the difference between Isabel becoming part of something meaningful to her instead of feeling like she’s missing out and not deserving enough to be a musician.
We’ll never know the real effects of Isabel being in band instead of being at home or somewhere else, but we do know that playing the flute is incredibly important to Isabel and her mother. Because someone donated a musical instrument, one little girl’s wish came true. It might not be much, but another little girl who received a flute from a kind donor once said, “This is better than Christmas.” For me, that makes it worth the effort.
Founder, Marching Mountains
Ian Felton is the founder of Marching Mountains, a non-profit based in Minneapolis. The goal of Marching Mountains is to create a network to supply public school band programs in distressed counties in Appalachia with donated new and used musical instruments.
Dear Marching Mountains,
I just wanted you to know... I am (student's) band director in West Virginia. I had never heard of your organization until this morning. (student) started band with her elementary director and so I didn't know what she was talking about when she said she had received an instrument "from a place that gives kids instruments".
When (student) said her trumpet was coming in the mail to me, I assumed it was the same program. When I read your letter though... I sat at my desk and cried for a good half hour.
I had no idea such a thing even existed. My school is in a fairly poor area as you can imagine. It's not the worst... but it's not the best either. I grew up here. I actually didn't do band all through school because I knew my parents would never be able to afford an instrument. Instead I took piano lessons from a lady a town over who gave lessons for $2 an hour. I ended up falling in love with music and went to college on a full ride scholarship.
When I got this band job I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I walked into a mouse infested outbuilding that was my classroom... with instruments that a former principal had bought at an army surplus auction trying to help the previous band director out. He literally loaded up a dump truck with every instrument he could buy and dumped them out in front of her classroom for her to sort.
When I got the job, there were still cases that hadn't been opened because there were no keys.
Long story short, I have a lot of instruments... but most of them are in need of major overhauls or were so smashed and broken that I had to throw them out or use them for parts. I had one poor mellophone that was nearly smashed completely flat...
But! My band program continues to grow despite all this. We did finally get a new school this past year. My classroom is wonderful and I was so glad to finally get a clean space that had... well... SPACE.
This year my 7th and 8th grade band is up to 47 and my beginning 6th grade band has 26. I have over half of our middle school students as band members.
I was doing instrument rentals this week... and I kept opening cases and seeing instruments that are going to need to go back to the shop or that I forgot I was keeping for parts... So the last two days I've been trying to figure out what to do about getting some new instruments. Last year I literally had Bandland piece a clarinet together for me out of the parts of 3 instruments so one of my kids could have a working instrument.
When I got your letter this morning, it was like hope had dawned... lol I hate to sound so dramatic, but you have no idea how much I've prayed over the last two days for God to show me how to manage this. (Because our 20 something year old uniforms are in desperate need of replacing as well...)
I know it might be a slow process to get everything I would LIKE to have... but I was so happy to see that there's a way to do it without putting my kids and their families under more financial strain with fundraisers...
I just wanted to thank you for the organization and let you know that you've made two little girls and one band director extremely happy today. :) (Alexis has been asking every day if her instrument had come... she came in first thing this morning to see if it was here... and today it was... :)
Thank you very much. I hope I haven't taken up too much of your time. I just wanted to share this with you.
(Band Director of a middle school in West Virginia)