PORTLAND, Ore. – One Portland middle school is going to be talking about the second week of classes for a long time.
Ron Russell Middle School students had no idea what was planned when they showed up Thursday morning and were told they could only go in one entrance to the school. They packed into the school's auditorium and watched as band and orchestra students, also oblivious to the upcoming event, flanked each side of the room, warming up their instruments.
Teachers and administrators, the ticketing website StubHub, and the Portland-based band Portugal. The Man, had been planning the assembly for months. The band and orchestra students had been preparing a special performance since school started the week before, but were never told why.
"Keeping a secret from 900-plus people is really hard to do,” said band teacher Tawnya Garcia. “I’ve known about this assembly since last spring and I haven't even told my family.”
They soon found out. As Ron Russell's principal addressed the students, the kids sat looking at some misshapen objects hiding under bed sheets. Then, a spokeswoman for StubHub asked the band for a drum roll as the sheets were removed, revealing $35,000 worth of trumpets, french horns, violins, cellos, saxophones and more.
The auditorium erupted in applause. Then, Portugal. The Man played a three-song set for the room - one of the first concerts many of the kids had ever been to.
"We started off playing in band as kids so it's very important for us to be able to come back and do something," said bassist Zachary Carothers.
The school's musicians were overjoyed.
"That was awesome," said band member Sarah Muller, who said when she plays her French horn, she feels like she can achieve great things. "I was at a loss for words. It was amazing."
Trumpet player Devin Martin said the instruments will help the band sound even better.
"The more instruments, the more people can play in the band, the bigger the band, the better the sound," he said.
The middle school, which is in the David Douglas School District, has an extremely musical population. Out of the 900 students, 150 are in the school band, 160 are in choir and 110 are in one of the school's six orchestras.
The instruments were given in partnership with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, as part of StubHub’s quest to donate $1 million worth of musical equipment to at-risk public school musical educational programs.