MARTINEZ, Calif. – It has been more than a week since thieves broke into the Martinez Junior High School music room to steal an alto sax, a baritone saxophone and a cello with a case. Police say they got in through a window and set off an alarm. According to Instrumental Music Teacher Julianne George, they locked the door when they left. She called the crime “egregious.”
The mystery of who did it, why only those instruments were stolen, and why nothing else was damaged remains unsolved. The student sense of loss and violation have not vanished, but George says the event has become a learning experience. When it occurred, “One student said, ‘I used to feel so safe in band class and now I don’t,’” George remembered.
“It happened at 12:30 a.m. on Friday (September 6). We came in with the kids at about 7:30 in the morning. It was very weird. Someone said, ‘Something is wrong with the room.’ I thought maybe someone used it for band practice or the drama class had been there.”
Then the first period Contra Band class started, and student after student reported their instruments missing. Whoever took the cello appropriated the case too. An amplifier was reported stolen as well.
“My baritone sax player looked at me with big eyes. Then we found out an alarm went off,” George recalled. The Martinez Unified School District, which had the instruments insured, and the Police Department were notified.
“It is true that we are getting the instruments back, but it teaches you that it is difficult to experience loss. This is a loss of the heart for the kids,” George remarked.
“Other kids looked at them and understood. Adults they did not know felt their pain, and gave them their instruments. This is huge. These are complete strangers. There are people who care,” George stated.
Multiple people have offered to write checks, even though the instruments are insured. George described the generosity of fellow musicians. “They are starting to understand how the students feel. To a musician, the loss of your instrument, it is personal to you,” she declared.
“A friend of mine gave me a ‘bari sax’ and said, ‘Here use this.’” Another friend from Vallejo gave her a new cello for the students, and an alto saxophone was donated by Danville woman who said she was not using it.
The students can keep playing until the new instruments arrive and any donations will enhance the music program, according to George. “I don’t turn kids away….Every year there are 67 kids in my beginner group,” she said. “We have rotation classes where every sixth-grade student gets exposed to some kind of music, percussion, guitar ….”
“What’s happening is money for music (sheet music), a guitar stand, and extra instruments for the students,” George observed. The school has Beginning, and Intermediate Bands, with two annual concerts and some performances with the Alhambra High School Band.