Global gift of joy: Nevada County woman leads donation drive to bring recorders to Uganda |

Global gift of joy: Nevada County woman leads donation drive to bring recorders to Uganda

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union
Julia Amaral is leading an effort to collect recorders and donate them to the Batwa Pygmies in Uganda. Amaral and her husband Mark Strate (not pictured) first visited the impoverished community in 2004 with the Kellermann Foundation.
Submitted photo


Recorder Donation Drop-off Locations:

Music in the Mountains, 530 Searls Avenue Ste A, Nevada City

Dr. Scott Kellermann’s office at CoRR, 180 Sierra College Drive, Grass Valley

Dr. Jean Creasey’s dental office, 216 S. Pine Street, Nevada City

Batwa Challenge Race, 7:30-11 AM August 25, Nevada City’s Pioneer Park

Deadline: Labor Day

More information: Julia Amaral @ 530-274-1040

Scott and Carol Kellermann, supported by donors to the nonprofit Kellermann Foundation, have worked to improve the lives of the Batwa Pygmies and surrounding communities in Uganda for 18 years.

The couple moved to Uganda from Nevada County in 2001. They have helped build a medical hospital and provided health care, community development, and nursing education to a population that then had an average life expectancy of 28 years and annual income of $24 per family.

Up next: Recorders.

Yes, recorders. Those whimsical flutes with open finger holes that allow musicians to produce a wide variety of tones and special effects.

“I wanted to do something about pleasure, about enjoying life.”— Julia Amaral

The idea to collect donated recorders and share them with the Batwa Pygmies is the brainchild of Kellermann Foundation board member Julia Amaral.

“I wanted to do something about pleasure, about enjoying life,” said Amaral. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to give them something to add to their natural musical heritage?’”

Donations of new and used recorders are being accepted through Labor Day at several Nevada County locations. Donations may also be dropped off at the Batwa Challenge Race the morning of Aug. 25 at Nevada City’s Pioneer Park.

In addition to their natural resting places in junk drawers and attics, recorders can be purchased or ordered at several local music stores.

“Recorders will help with relationships, a musical exchange between Nevada County and the Batwa Pygmies,” Kellermann said. “The outcome is out of our hands, but my guess is people will donate recorders and some will even say, ‘I could go there and help teach them how to play.’”

Kellermann said the Batwa have a rich culture of song and dance, but the music is limited to drums and their own voices.

“They love to sing, and soon they’ll have a little accompaniment with recorders,” Kellermann said. “They can’t read music, but I think they can learn to play by ear some of their traditional songs.”

Recorders without borders gives a boost

Amaral got the idea through her connections with Music in the Mountains, which teaches elementary students to play recorders through its Carnegie Link Up Program. The program culminates each March with several hundred youngsters performing recorders with a full symphony orchestra.

Kate Canan, who serves on the Music in the Mountains Education Taskforce, is teaching Amaral how to play the recorder.

“Recorders are inexpensive, wonderful to learn, and a fabulous instrument that can play all sorts of music,” said Canan. ‘”Recorders can be a bridge to the modern woodwind instruments.”

“I thought that if our local kids can play a recorder, I’ll bet the pygmies can too,” said Amaral, who will be among a group that will travel to Uganda Sept. 16 to deliver the donated recorders.

Canan put Amaral in touch with a national organization called Recorders without Borders, a twist on the name of the well-known charity Doctors without Borders. Amaral has received advice and encouragement from Recorders without Borders, a nonprofit that has delivered more than 4,500 recorders to people in seven countries. The Texas-based organization also sponsors music teachers who are willing to share their skills with aspiring recorder musicians in developing countries.

“We collected 100 recorders that we’re giving to Julia to take with the Kellermann Foundation in September,” said Recorders without Borders Founder Lynn Brooks. “Julia is going to lay the groundwork with the schools and teachers there, and get a sense of whether it will be a good fit for us to send a music teacher there next summer.”

Dr. Jean Creasey is a local dentist and Kellermann Foundation past president who has traveled to Uganda seven times and worked to improve dental care there.

“There is one dental chair — a single chair — that serves 250,000 people,” said Creasey, who is actively raising money to build a dental clinic.

She applauds Amaral’s efforts.

“In a culture that has so few resources, every opportunity for joy is appreciated,” said Creasey. “If we can bring over suitcases of donated musical instruments, we should do it. It opens up the world of enjoying and creating music in a way they have not experienced.”

Amaral said she believes the simple and durable recorder will help bring lasting joy to an impoverished people.

“I think it will make them happier,” she predicted. “They will be happy knowing that people in America care about them enough to send them an instrument. I see the recorders being enjoyed by the entire population, not just the children.”

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at

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