'Wando Music Mentors' fundraiser hits perfect pitch

AWENDAW, SC (WCSC) - Smooth jazz and trumpet solos filled the air at the Awendaw Green Sunday afternoon. Wando high school students took the stage off highway 17 and hit notes for their non-profit organization Wando Music Mentors, a program designed to keep middle school band students interested in music.

"The kids love it," said Everett Engstrom, one of two student leaders of the non-profit. "It's an invaluable method of expressing yourself from the inside. Music allows you to do that and we hope to share that with the kids."

Every Wednesday, Engstrom and some of the Wando High band students make the trip to Laing Middle School in Mt. Pleasant. The high school students are giving free lessons to the middle school band students their as apart of the program.

Engstrom's other half, John Houston, inherited the Wando Music Mentors from two other students who started it three years ago.

"It's about the music," said Houston. "But we're trying to get them to do things through the music. Stay out of trouble... Like our band director tells us the first day of school. The type of person you are is more important than the musician you become."

From percussion to the brass, Julie Notton, Everett's mother, says the program hits the perfect pitch.

"They really wanted to encourage the kids to stay in the band and continue to play music," said Notton. "I'm actually very impressed that high school kids started this program. It's such a wonderful way to give back to the kids and promote music."

Nick Nafpliotis, the band director at Laing Middle School, said the eight kids benefiting from the program right now are learning invaluable lessons.

"It just kind of brings them to life. It's a really, really great thing," said Nafpliotis. "There are kids that are disadvantaged but now they get to take lessons and see how good they can be."

The third annual fundraiser held on Awendaw Green was raising money to help out the Laing Middle School students with band fees and instrument rentals.

Because of it's growing popularity and proven success, the Wando Music Mentors is eyeing an expansion to more middle schools next year.

Nafpliotis says he already sees the program building a strong base at Laing middle and making more students decide to stay with the band program.

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