Most everyone in the Tampa Bay area is familiar with the Gasparilla. The Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been a Tampa tradition since 1904. What many may not know is that the music which is part of the festivities through the Gasparilla Music Festival is more than mere sea shanties. Proceeds from the festival support music education throughout the bay area all year long through a program called Recycled Tunes.
Recycled Tunes provides refurbished instruments, completes instrument repairs and donates supplies (including strings, reeds, sticks and tablets) to teachers and students. The program was started in 2013 as an initiative of the nonprofit Gasparilla Music Foundation and is based on a belief that music and arts education is a critical part of childhood development.
Tracy Lisi, supervisor of elementary music for Hillsborough County Public Schools, said that Recycled Tunes is an integral part of providing music within the district.
“We are exceptionally grateful for our partnership with them. They fulfill what we are not able to do, either monetarily or due to time,” Lisi said.
Recycled Tunes ambassador Tad Denham is grateful the community’s support has allowed the program to benefit so many students. Recycled Tunes worked with 55 elementary schools during the 2022-23 school year, 71 percent of which were Title I schools. This year, in its 10th year, the program is also benefiting middle school students.
According to Jon Sever, supervisor of secondary music for Hillsborough County Public Schools, Recycled Tunes is key to bridge the gap created by needs as music programs grow.
“Recycled Tunes, and Tad and his crew, has an outstanding program for getting instruments to music students of Hillsborough County,” Sever said.
Recycled Tunes is widely recognized for the impact it is having on music programs and the development of individual students. The program is the recipient of three prestigious awards from 2022-23:
• The Encore Award from the Hillsborough Elementary Music Educators Council in May 2022.
• The Exemplary Music Model Program Award from the Florida Music Educators Association in January.
The Florida Department of Education Commissioner’s Business Partner Recognition Award from the Florida Department of Education in August.
Instruments are collected throughout the year at the Recycled Tunes office, located at 1723 W. Cypress St. in Tampa, and at various instrument drives.
“Our biggest need for donated instruments at this time is brass and woodwinds as we expand to include middle school band programs,” explained Denham.
Teachers can request support through the Recycled Tunes website.