Richmond High School band's mystery benefactor donates $60,000

Richmond High School has an anonymous and very generous benefactor who has given a boost to the school's first marching band in 30 years.  That person made an anonymous donation and the school bought 42 new instruments.

Many of the students come from low-income, single parent homes. They say it's been a struggle both at home and at school.

Until last week, some had to share instruments to practice.  Now thanks to the surprise gift, students say they have a renewed sense of pride and will work that much harder to help boost morale at their school.

"When I play my instrument, I feel like my soul is speaking. It just feels amazing," said Rafael Castro, a 17-year-old junior.

"What I like most about being a part of the band is being a part of something...something big," said Chisom Nwadike, a 16-year-old sophomore. 

The students are now part of something big and bold with their old broken instruments now replaced last week by the new ones.

The band teacher says it was made possible by an anonymous donation of $60,000.

"I was like wow. I was just shocked," said Markel Anderson, a 15-year-old sophomore. 

Students say the new instruments sound better and band helps them find solace from the streets of Richmond, where gunfire has claimed many lives, including some of their peers.  

"I think music can change anything; bring the community together.  Bring out a whole new mindset for our city," said David Aguilar, a 16-year-old junior. 

Castro said his father left when he was only six and he had to become man of the house.

He says the band gives him confidence that he can achieve his goal of going to college and finding a job to support his mother and three sisters.

"My future was going to mean a lot to my family; provide many things.  We'd live better," said Rafael. 

"I wake up early 'cause I come here first thing.  I'm here an hour before school starts," said 15-year-old Joey Stover, a freshman. 

Last year, teacher Andy Wilke came on board to teach band afterschool three days a week. This year, he’s been hired full time.

He hopes that what the students learn in band will serve them well in life.

"Teaching them about how to set a goal and how to reach the goal even if it’s endless," said Wilke. 

The students say the instruments are their bridge to the future.

"We need to find stuff that we can all connect to and use that as a bridge to fill in the gaps and make it a safer place for everyone," said Aguilar. 

The band's plight first attracted the attention of a community activist who started Bring Back the Music— a project to help the students raise money to buy new instruments.  That led to the anonymous donation.

The band's next performance will be Friday night at Richmond High for a black history month celebration.

You can donate to the band's YouCaring fund here.