Instrument donation helps Tulsa charter school expand music offerings

A new kind of music now fills the halls at Lighthouse Charter School.

The squeaks of clarinets, honks of trumpets and bangs of cymbals being played by beginners is music to the ears of everyone excited about the school’s first marching band elective.

Diane Murphy, executive director of the FW Murphy Family Foundation and a board member at Lighthouse, recently donated an entire set of new and used school band instruments and 23 students in grades four through six signed up for band as their elective.

“I’ve been inspired to learn the drums because my mom and dad were both African drum players,” said Bakari Jones, 9, who is learning to play a new set of quad drums. “We are really grateful. We are already learning that we should be very careful with the instruments so other students can use them for a long time.”

Before a gift valued at more than $10,000 — comprising trombones, flutes, alto saxophones, clarinets, trumpets, snare drums, bass drums, quad drums, plus a concert bass drum, piano and two acoustic guitars — students were relegated to learning music on their teacher’s own African drums and sundry other instruments.

“I can’t thank Diane Murphy enough. The generosity of her family is incredible,” said Arthur Thompson, who is also a professional musician in Tulsa who has played with well-known artists. “This is a real investment in the school and the children’s lives and also in me as a teacher. None of these kids ever played an

instrument before.”

Lighthouse is a Tulsa Public Schools-sponsored charter school founded in 2012. It is in the former Greeley school building located at 105 E. 63rd St. North and has about 380 elementary school students.

Thompson tries to expose his students to a variety of music through monthly, live performances by professional musician friends of his who come in and play for students for a couple of hours.

A visit from one of Thompson’s friends in particular influenced 9-year-old De’Marion Thomas’ choice of instrument.

“I got inspired by El Jack,” he said, referring to saxophonist Eldredge Jackson. “It’s got like a smooth sound.

“And I like jazz, so I got inspired.”

De’Marion estimated that he has already learned two to three songs in the month since Lighthouse’s new instruments arrived.

And Bakari, a fourth-grader like De’Marion, is excited that early dismissal Wednesdays at the school have now freed up blocks of three hours for band practice, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“Once Mr. Thompson upped the ante with that extra practice, I was like, ‘Yes!’” he said. “More time equals more practice equals more perfection. We’ll learn more, faster now.”