Santa Barbara Education Foundation intern Sarah Chaves (left) and development associate Elle Chaves (right) collect instruments at Nick Rail Music for the first week of this year's Keep the Beat instrument drive. | Credit: Ryan P. Cruz

Throughout the month of February, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and local radio station 99.9 KTYD are teaming up to collect musical instruments and financial donations to help support music education programs in the district with the Keep the Beat instrument drive.

In 2003, the foundation began raising funds and collecting instruments to support musical education in Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD); today, every student from kindergarten to 6th grade learns to play an instrument, which Santa Barbara Education Foundation Development Officer Melissa Davenport said is a “rarity for California school districts.”

Since the start of the program, the organization has collected and distributed more than 1,850 instruments directly into the hands of students in music programs at all district elementary, junior high, and high schools.

Donated instruments pile high in the Santa Barbara Education Foundation offices after the Keep the Beat drive in 2022; in the last five years, the initiative has collected over 500 instruments for local students grades K-12. | Credit: Courtesy

For the past five years, local rock station 99.9 KTYD has joined the Keep the Beat initiative with an on-air event to help raise awareness for the drive and shine a spotlight on local student and professional musicians every Friday in February. This month, guest interviews will feature Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, saxophonist Lito Hernandez, multi-instrumentalist and composer Victor Murillo, and drummer Bucket Baker. 

In 2021, the Keep the Beat instrument drive brought in more than $10,000 in funding and more than 140 instruments — with everything from the typical trumpets, violins, and guitars to less common instruments like an electric ukulele and didgeridoo.

“Every music student wants to play a particular instrument. Maybe they sign up hoping to play the flute, trumpet, drums, or cello,” said Stephen Hughes, a music teacher at La Colina Junior High School. “When the schools receive instruments from the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, we can give them directly to our students, who can begin learning their dream instrument right away.”

This year’s drive began this Friday with an instrument collection at Nick Rail Music (2801 De la Vina St.) from 11 a.m.-3 p.m and a special edition of 99.9 KTYD’s Morning Mojo show with on-air hosts Lin Aubuchon and Bill Pesso.

At Nick Rail Music, piles of used instruments began to pile up on the first day of collections, including a rare concertina, string instruments, brass, and woodwinds. Next Friday, February 10, the foundation will collect instruments at La Cumbre Junior High from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

On Friday, February 17, the collection site will return to Nick Rail Music from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., then back to La Cumbre Junior High for the final collection day on February 24 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

For those who are unable to make it to the collection sites, or those who don’t have instruments but want to support local music education, the Santa Barbara Education is also accepting donations to help repair and maintain instruments currently in use by students. Contributions also go toward specialists who work with students in free after-school programs like BRAVO, and other low-cost music programs like the Nick Rail Summer Band Camp.

For more information or to donate online, visit To donate via phone, text KEEPTHEBEAT to 44-321.

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