LYONS, Colo. — When an an aggressive form of brain cancer took the life of a young music teacher in 2015, a promise was made between her husband and one of his best friends.
“He said, ‘You know, if you have some extra time, extra money, if you can find some time to give a musical instrument to a child, I know that’s something that Tonya would have really loved,” said Ian Phillips, the husband’s friend.
Tonya Dubeansky lived in Forest Hills, New York with her husband Brandon. Brandon’s good friend Ian (Phillips), lived in Lyons, Colorado.
“It wasn’t until my [other] friend, who [also] lived in Lyons, ended up moving down and getting a job in Chinle, Arizona [was I able to fulfill the promise],” said Phillips. “Speaking with her, she just spoke about the poverty and despair they’re dealing with [in Chinle] on a daily basis”.
With that, Phillips created: ‘Music to Chinle’, a project aimed at collecting instruments.
“Music is a really big thing up in Lyons,” Phillips said.
As the General Manager of a local pub in Lyons, Pizza Bar 66, Phillips asked his patrons and fellow neighbors if they had any musical instruments they could donate.
Right away, donations poured in.
“It really made me humble and grateful that the people in [my] community were able to step it up,” he said.
Over the weekend, Phillips drove 1,300 miles from Lyons, Colorado to Chinle, Arizona to drop off the instruments.
Overall, he brought 13 guitars, 4 ukuleles, 5 recorders, 8 harmonicas, 2 Keyboards, 2 congas, a snare drum, a melodica, a child’s drum set, a xylophone, a viola, a trumpet, a flute, several music books, new guitar strings and assorted percussion.
“I think it’s wonderful. A lot of these kids don’t have a lot to do outside of school time,” said Eric Swanson, a High School Music Teacher in Chinle, Arizona. “They love music. It brings them joy and happiness. I have one girl who wants to learn to play the guitar to change the world”.
Chinle is one of the poorest communities in the Rocky Mountain region. It sits on the Navajo Nation; a good 90 miles from the nearest town where students have to travel to get their old instruments fixed.
With the donation from Lyons and other Colorado communities, they won’t have to make that trek for a while.
“With this project you really [do see] the best in humanity,” Phillips said.
To think, it all started with a music teacher’s dying wish.