Benefit concert May 14 to help kids buy band instruments

Laura Tichy-Smith
Special to Coastal Life

Some of Southwest Florida’s finest professional musicians are coming together to make certain that the music plays on for another generation, and they need a bit of help from you to make it happen.

Bandleader Craig Christman will bring the Stardust Memories Big Band to the Music For Minors Foundation fundraising concert.

All you have to do is buy a ticket and relax while you enjoy their performances at the Music For Minors Foundation fundraising concert on Saturday, May 14, at Unity Church Of Naples.

“I want to get out there the caliber of the people playing in this concert,” said Don Rhynard, president of the Music For Minors Foundation. “The audience is going to hear these incredible musicians from both the Naples Philharmonic and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra but not playing in the orchestras. They’re going to get to do their own solos and duets, so you’re really going to get to hear them play as opposed to them being a part of the orchestras.

The Stardust Memories Big Band will be among the performers at the Music For Minors Foundation fundraising concert.

“And then we’ve got the Stardust Memories Big Band, which features some of the best musicians in Southwest Florida,” Rhynard said. “If people were to go to someplace like Artis-Naples to listen to this concert, they’d be paying $150 to $500 a ticket for any other fundraiser with this caliber of talent. Since this is our first year and we’re trying to get this fundraiser established, that’s why we’re only charging $50.”


On the classical side, 10 soloists from the two professional orchestras will perform a concert program that includes Rossini’s “Allegro” from the “Duet for Cello and Double Bass” as well as a Bach “Brandenburg Concerto” performed as a duet.

Students from the Music For Minors band perform yearly at the Bonita Blues Festival.

A featured performer in the classical set will be pianist Jodie DeSalvo.

Then the Stardust Memories Big Band will take the stage to perform jazz for the second half of the show.

President Don Rhynard, left, and founder Dorothy Friedenreich, right, with the students who are participating in Music for Minors’ play-to-earn-ownership program.

“Our portion of it is going to be the greatest hits of the big band era, with ‘In The Mood’ and ‘String of Pearls’ — some of the classics from the World War II era,” said Stardust Memories founder and bandleader Craig Christman.

“We’ve got a fellow who sings — Walt Andrus — he’s not a Sinatra impersonator, but he sounds uncannily like him but he does his own thing. He sang with Tommy Dorsey’s band after Tommy passed away.

President Don Rhynard, left, and founder Dorothy Friedenreich, right, introduce the Music For Minors band at the Bonita Blues Festival.

“Frank Sinatra started with Tommy Dorsey, so everyone who sang with the band afterwards had to fill those shoes, and our singer Walt certainly does,” Christman continued. “Some of the others performing are classical musicians, so there’s going to be a little something for everybody as far as the entertainment aspect.”


The concert will be followed by a wine-and-cheese reception at the church, with the opportunity to meet and mingle with the musicians and the volunteers from Music For Minors.

Don Rhynard, president of the Music For Minors Foundation, shows an instrument that the nonprofit will lend to a schoolchild in a play-to-earn-ownership program.

“Unity Church, which is the most beautiful setting ever, it’s totally open glass on all sides, so you’re surrounded by nature with a lake in the back, and it’s the most beautiful, calming setting,” said Rhynard.

The all-volunteer Music For Minors Foundation was founded by Dorothy Friedenreich of Bonita Springs because the state of Florida requires that most children own their own instruments to participate in high school band.

Since 2004, the locally focused nonprofit has helped provide musical instruments for children in Lee and Collier counties whose families could not otherwise afford them.

Middle school music teachers nominate students, and the organization loans instruments to those who meet the financial and academic criteria. After three years, the children earn ownership of the instruments by participating in the school band or orchestra and earning good academic grades.

They play annual recitals for the organization to prove that they practice regularly and are making progress with their instruments.

Smaller instruments

Music For Minors usually provides small instruments, such as flutes, clarinets and violins. The nonprofit has given away nearly 300 band instruments since its founding.

“If it weren’t for them, it would be a lot harder for me to pursue my musical career,” said David Flores, an eighth-grade trumpet player at Golden Gate Middle School. “I wouldn’t have an instrument of my own. As school, I can only rent an instrument for the school year, but during the summer, I lose all that practice time, and I wasn’t able to afford my own instrument.”

Because of the support of donors, particularly the Bonita Blues Charitable Foundation, Music For Minors has reached a point where it could achieve Friedenreich’s original goal of sending students to college to study music. The nonprofit will present its third annual Dorothy Friedenreich College Scholarship during the reception following the concert.

“It has given me many opportunities to be a part of a really good music program,” said Taylor Curry Stokes, a 12th-grade viola player from Golden Gate High School who earned her instrument from Music For Minors. “They gave me my own instrument, so I was able to study and do all of these amazing things that have gotten me to where I am now. Music For Minors supports the students who major in music and gives them the opportunity to earn a scholarship and go to college.”

Connect with this writer: @LauraTichySmith (Twitter)

If you go

What: Music For Minors Foundation Fundraising Concert

When: 2-5 p.m. Saturday, May 14

Where: Unity Church Of Naples, 2000 Unity Way, Naples

Driving tip: Unity Way turns south from Davis Boulevard between County Barn Road and Santa Barbara Boulevard.

Cost: $50 tax-deductible donation

Info: 273-2250;

Tickets in person: United Arts Council of Collier County, 1495 Pine Ridge Road #5, Naples

Tickets online:

Tickets by mail: Check or money order (by May 7), Music For Minors Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 1503, Bonita Springs, FL 34133