Donating an unneeded musical instrument is a fine way to create opportunities for young musicians who lack the financial resources to purchase or rent their own instruments. Although donation to local charities, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, is one way to dispose of such an instrument, several organisations have been specifically created to facilitate the passing along of used instruments to appropriate recipients.
Have the instrument or instruments appraised or inspected by a qualified professional, typically a music-store repair person. That old Conn or King trumpet left in Grandpa's will may turn out to be a highly prized professional-calibre model that would not be suitable for a sixth-grade musician. In this case, it may be perfect for a young musician on the verge of a professional career who lacks the resources to purchase the right horn.
Contact organisations that accept donations of instruments. Some of these, such as the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, will refurbish and repair all donated instruments before sending them to deserving recipients. These organisations can also assist in determining the correct recipient for a specific calibre of instrument.
Contact local school music teachers. Many band and orchestra programs are in critical need of quality student instruments. Music teachers in the schools will be happy to speak with you about potential donations, and they will likely bear the cost of repair or refurbishing.
Contact private music teachers. A private teacher who sees 30 students each week knows exactly who needs which instruments. If the instrument is a fine-quality violin or cello, for instance, the local symphony orchestra should be contacted to pass along names and contact information of its members who teach students. In this way, a wonderful match can sometimes be made with a great instrument and a deserving student.
Include all accessories with your donated instrument. Whatever originally came with the instrument should be donated with it, including protective cases, cloths, mouthpieces, reeds, guitar picks, valve oil, slide grease, violin humidifiers, bows, rosin and anything else that could come in handy for the student.
Secure the appropriate paperwork, consulting a lawyer if necessary. If a tax deduction is desired for the donation, organisations that accept donations of instruments typically are able to provide acceptance letters that specify the instrument's value.
Professional musicians are always on the lookout for a great instrument at a bargain price (or free of charge). If donation of a professional-quality instrument is done on a local basis, it is worth taking the time to follow up and see that it ends up in the hands of the student, not the teacher.