By Bruce Fessier • The Desert Sun • September 29, 2008
Barry Manilow made good on his own bailout program today when the Palm Springs-based singer delivered $500,000 worth of musical instruments to 20 public schools.
With security fit for a high-ranking public official, Manilow stepped up to a makeshift stage and addressed a crowd outside of Palm Springs High School made up of students, band boosters and local school officials like a politician at a campaign stop.
"With a bunch of volunteers, we have been able to put together our own version of ‘Extreme Makeover: Band Edition," said Manilow, wearing sunglasses and a leather coat at the warm mid-morning event.
"So, now is the time to get those instruments to our kids. Drivers: Move those trucks!"
And with that, a caravan of trucks drove past the high school on Ramon Road, symbolizing the beginning of the delivery of the instruments.
Manilow said this campaign, called the Manilow Music Project, began with a telephone call — "one voice, I like to say" — about the plight of the Palm Desert Desert Middle School band program.
He and a few friends began looking at other local band programs and realized all were suffering from lack of funds.
His grassroots committee asked each school for a "wish list" for their music program. Manilow then went to one of his publishers, Hal Leonard Music, and the Yamaha company, which gives him discounts on instruments.
Manilow donated more than $10,000 per school, or roughly $250,000, and with sponsorships from Hal Leonard, Yamaha and the Toys ‘R Us Children’s Fund, that translated into $500,000 worth of instruments, music stands, sheet music and more.
Brian Foley of Indio Middle School got a tuba, marimbas, three flutes, three clarinets, a bass drum and a bass trombone for his program. He said he was grateful Manilow tried to help every school.
"It takes a community to have the arts happen," he said, "so, to have Barry Manilow do that for us — the entire valley instead of just select schools — is absolutely wonderful."
Students also seemed appreciative.
"He's a real inspiration," said Palm Springs High School junior Annalisa Cardenas. "He proved you can get where you want to go if you work hard enough."
Manilow said the hoopla over the announcement was just to inspire more people to support local music programs.
Manilow's publicist, Carol Marshall, said "Entertainment Tonight," "Access Hollywood" and "Extra" were expected to mention the giveaway tonight.
"I did this on a very grand scale," Manilow told the crowd, "but anybody can help out on a much smaller scale. Just call your school."
After the ceremony, with the Palm Springs High School Jazz Band playing while Manilow did interviews, Manilow said he may do more music projects in other regions.
"It all depends if I tour," he said. "If I actually went to a city that meant a lot to me, and I might be doing that next year, I might coordinate it for when I arrive at that city. I might actually make a donation to a local high school."