NEWBURYPORT — The music department at Newburyport High School saw a holiday wish come true last week when it received nearly $4,000 in new and up-to-date stage and sound equipment.
The equipment was donated and delivered by The Walk Back in Time Foundation, which was established in 2011 by Newburyport High alumni to raise money and awareness for the Newburyport Schools’ music programs. It includes a powerful public address (PA) system consisting of a 16-channel mixer with digital effects, and USB connection capability for computer interfacing and digital recording.
The equipment was greatly needed and the timing of the delivery couldn’t have been better, as the material arrived in time for the high school’s annual winter concert.
“Most of our existing equipment was worn out, broken or ancient,” said NHS music instructor and band director Steven Cohen. “The PA amplifier, which dated back to the ‘70s, had only a couple of working channels and sounded pretty bad. The old PA speakers were shot and our guitar amplifier was useless, literally burnt out. It’s hard to inspire students when they don’t have what they need to perform.”
Walk Back in Time founder Buddy Lauder delivered the equipment after current foundation director Jim Grenier, a part-time musician himself, noticed a serious problem with the school’s PA system while attending a few NHS band rehearsals.
“I was able to see the problem first hand. The whole system was simply nothing I’d want to have to plug into for a performance,” Grenier said. “When I tried the guitar amplifier myself, smoke poured out of it. It was clear to me we needed to remedy the situation as soon as possible.”
According to Grenier, the foundation sought a solution by addressing the problem with Superintendent Susan Viccaro, who gave the go-ahead to produce a list of what was needed and for the foundation to purchase the equipment, which also consists of matching powered speakers, new microphones, stands and cables, and a new 100W Fender guitar amplifier.
“I think this equipment will go a long way in helping the students learn,” Cohen said. “Walking into a room with nice equipment and instruments lets the students know they are being supported and appreciated. This is a real shot in the arm for our program.”
Cohen added that by acquiring the new equipment the school “may be able to offer new and exciting music-related courses in sound design and recording.”
Grenier cited the efforts of local musicians, volunteers, event-goers, and corporate sponsors, including The Institution for Savings and other local banks and businesses.
“They’re just as responsible for this donation as the foundation is. We all want to see the music and arts in our schools flourish,” he said.