Sometime between the late night of Saturday, September 20 and the wee morning hours of Monday, September 22, miscreants broke into the music portable at my son’s elementary school. They stole several instruments: guitars, keyboards and ukuleles. They also made off with 2 projectors, a camera and an amplifier with speakers. As if stealing wasn’t enough, these nasty, little pinheads threw in some vandalism as well. They trashed the classroom computer and drew all over the walls and the piano with markers. It seems one crime-spree wasn’t sufficient for this particular band of reprobates, so they returned a few nights later to steal a couple more guitars. The entire school community is sickened by this abhorrent act, and the music teacher Mr. Nelson is understandably distraught. Mr. Nelson is a wonderful teacher. He’s mild-mannered, soft-spoken, enthusiastic and patient. My son adores him and looks forward to the days, when he has music class. I also have a special fondness for Mr. Nelson: He grew up in a household with two deaf parents and ended up becoming a music teacher. This fact has always struck me as poignant, and while nobody should have to endure such an ugly invasion of his or her workspace, it is particularly heartbreaking to me that it happened to Mr. Nelson. He’s an unassuming hero, who shows up every day and gently introduces young souls to new adventures in the great, big world of music.

I grew up in Ponca City, Oklahoma, a small town in the northern part of the state. While there was plenty weird about growing up in Oklahoma, the Okies did get a few things right. When I was in elementary school, I had music class every single day. I also had art, PE and science every day. This was all in addition to the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic. I can still remember my music teacher Miss Crawford. She was tall, skinny and had fierce red hair. She walked to school every day and decorated the class piano in seasonal themes. We would practice drawing treble clefs on staff paper, and some days, she would hand out percussion instruments for us to play as we sang whatever tune we happened to be working on. It was in her classroom, that I first heard Rhapsody in Blue. Of course, this was long ago and far away. Things are very different now. My son has music about once every three days. Music class is in a rotation with PE and computer lab. I’m not entirely sure why this is. I know that teachers are mandated to cover a certain curriculum and also that preparation for standardized tests such as the WASL, takes priority. I also figure that funding is limited. I don’t bemoan teachers in the least, but somewhere along the line, arts, music, and physical education came to be seen as secondary instead of basic and vital. Teachers like Mr. Nelson are forced to be magicians, getting as much done as they can with extremely limited resources of time and funding.

I think that things are hard enough already with Wall Street going haywire, hurricanes relentlessly banging away on the coasts, rampant unemployment and crazy politicians running around all over the place. Damn the snotty punks, who broke into the music portable. They essentially stole from children and made one guy’s hard-enough-already job even harder. The individuals, who committed this crime, have small minds and dark hearts. They are still out there, roaming the streets and undoubtedly, planning their next illegal act. The police may never catch up with them, but hopefully, karma will.

Jazz photographer Ron Hudson once said that the kids learning to play music today would ultimately be the ones to perpetuate the music in the future. I believe that to be true. The readers of are a community of musicians, fans and friends who work every day to make sure that live music is a strong and vibrant presence in our culture. In the spirit of perpetuating the music, perhaps we can come together to help the budding, young musicians of Kimball Elementary recoup their losses and resume their musical journey.

The following is a list of what was stolen from the classroom:

5 Yamaha PSR 293 student keyboards
1 Casio student keyboard
1 Yamaha M088 keyboard (brand new)
5 guitars (1/2 size)
2 ukuleles
1 small mixer console
2 projectors
1 document camera
1 small amplifier with speakers

The total dollar amount of the loss is $6200.00. The school is not insured for theft, so money to replace the stolen items must come from outside sources. If you would like to make a contribution to the cause, please send it to:

Attention: PTSA Treasurer-Music School
Kimball Elementary School
3200 23rd Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98144

Make your checks out to, “Kimball PTSA”. Please write “music room” on the memo line of the check. If you have a used instrument that you would like to donate, please email Jim Nelson at [email protected].

Many, many thanks!

Seattle Jazz