• Bridgeport Ribhouse, Musicopia donate Ribstock instruments to Stewart Middle School
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    By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald
    NORRISTOWN — Local musicians, who are used to rocking packed houses with guitar picks and drum sticks in hand, passed along the musical torch to students in the Norristown Area School District Monday afternoon when they donated the proceeds of the Bridgeport Ribhouse Ribstock Festival to the district’s music program.

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    In February, these same musicians gathered at the Ribhouse with friends, family and fans for the daylong celebration, which combines juicy ribs with juicier music to collect monetary and instrument donations for local children who cannot afford to purchase their own instruments.

    All of the funds raised and instruments collected during the celebration are donated to the district through Musicopia, a non-profit organization that brings music performance and education to students and communities which focuses on geographical areas that lack the adequate funding or support for music programs.

    On Monday, Paul Hammond, guitarist for the nationally acclaimed Led Zeppelin cover band Get the Led Out, Brian Quinn, guitarist from the Philadelphia-based band Octane and the nationally recognized band Fosterchild, Christina Edleman, Musicopia grants and development manager, and Ribhouse staff members Nick Radliff and Walt Hambrick brought guitars, drums, bass, stands and more to Stewart Middle School.

    Stewart Principal Martina Walls, instrumental music teacher Ken Laskey, general and chorus music teacher Andrew Heizmann, along with music students Victoria Rhodes, Daisy Frias, Devon Carpenter, Gabe Irrizarry, Allison Perry and Shayla Caetmano greeted the Ribstock crew and eagerly accepted the donations.

    This year was the most successful donation yet from the Ribstock and Musicopia community, which additionally raised $3,000 that was given to the music program.

    “We’re very lucky. We have a very strong music program in the Norristown Area School District,” Walls said. “We see this as more opportunity for our students to get exposure to music. These instruments will be used by kids all over the district.

    “Musicopia has been very strong in helping out our district,” Walls continued, citing various times Musicopia has brought professional musicians to the school for concert assemblies and mini-lessons in classrooms.

    In addition to the Gift of Music Instrument Donation Program and in-school assemblies, residencies and workshops, Musicopia manages two ensembles for children without opportunities for private study: The Musicopia String Orchestra and the Musicopia Drumline, which have allowed Musicopia to reach more than 40,000 students in the Delaware Valley.

    Edleman said Musicopia is thankful to the Ribhouse for continuing to invite them to Ribstock.

    “We’re grateful to the Ribhouse staff for helping us fulfill our mission of helping children through music education,” Edleman said. “This is the third year in a row we have been able to bring more instruments than the year before.”

    For Hammond it was hard not to be as excited as the kids who gathered around as they unpacked the drums and guitars and brought them down to the music room.

    “I’m psyched for the kids,” Hammond said. “That acoustic guiatar is nicer than the one we had when we were kids. It’s great to see the smiles on their faces. You can tell they are happy.”

    Since Ribstock has grown in popularity over the previous three years, the organizers had to place a limit on the bands that appear. The nine bands that made it into this year’s lineup, in order of appearance, were Note 4 Note, Barometer, Work Release, Catullus, Dead Poets, Dead Flowers, N.Y.E Band, Mile High Club and The Sofa Kings.

    “If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to do it again next year,” Hammond said.

    Ribstock is held every year on the Sunday of Presidents Day weekend. If you love music and want to help put a smile on a child’s face, the Ribstock community invites you to come out on Feb. 15 for the annual celebration.

    To donate instruments to Musicopia, plan an instrument donation drive, find instrument drop-off locations or find other ways to give children the gift of music, visit the Musicopia website, www.musicopia.net.

    Brian Quinn, Get the Led Out, and Musicopia can be found on twitter: @BrianQuinnGTR, @GetTheLedOut, and @Musicopia1974.