Campbell River realtor Byron Maier spent a good chunk of his afternoon one day last week on a loading dock in Campbellton.
He wasn’t there doing research into industrial property values or trying to sell the facility to someone. He was unpacking a vehicle full of musical instruments onto a pallet to send to a music school in Kingston, Jamaica.
The Alpha Institute – formerly the Alpha Boys School – was founded in 1880 thanks to the vision of a Jamaican philanthropist by the name of Jessie Ripoll. Her dream was to help young Jamaicans at the bottom of the social ladder rise up through education and, most famously, music.
“They have a world-class music program,” Maier says. “It’s famous for launching the careers of many Jamaican musicians. It’s safe to say a big reason the popularity of Jamaican music exists is because of that school.”
But in order to continue to do that, they need instruments.
When Maier got involved with the Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival – as a long-time reggae fan – he wanted to use his connections to give back to the people of Jamaica for providing the world such wonderful music.
“And I just kind of found out about the school, called them up and asked them if they needed any instruments,” he says simply. “And that was it. I just started reaching out to friends and people involved in the music community – I just put it out to the universe and people were more than happy to donate instruments to us.”
The reality of Jamaican life, Maier says, is much different than the perception we have of it.
“We see it as a tropical paradise, but the reality is that the people there are very, very poor,” he says. “When I talked to the band master down there about their need for instruments, he told me that they often have extremely gifted kids graduating that had no instrument to go off and be a musician with. I mean, if you’re having a hard time putting shoes on your feet, going out and buying a bass sax just isn’t a thing.”
So some of the instruments Maier is sending down will make their way into the hands of graduating students to see them on their way out the doors of the school.
Last week’s shipment is the second such donation Maier has sent. The last one was in 2012. He sends a shipment whenever he has enough instruments to make a pallet.
So he’s starting to collect for a third now.
Anyone interested in donating an instrument can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Re/Max Check Realty at 250-286-1187. He’s always looking for brass instruments, but he’ll take whatever he can get.
“We’d love to get a xylophone,” he says with a laugh, “but really, any sort of instrument you’d see in any high school band would be great.”
You can also make a monetary donation to the cause by visiting victoriaskafest.ca/alpha and looking for the yellow “Donate” button.