ALBANY — The fire that destroyed South Albany High School's band room last week unexpectedly reunited junior Colin Meyer with an old friend: his middle-school tuba.
Meyer, who went to Calapooia Middle School, now plays concert tuba for South Albany's symphonic band. Calapooia and other Albany schools quickly volunteered to provide loaner instruments for Isaac Andrew's band classes following the fire, and Meyer recognized his right away.
"I knew it by the case and I recognized it by the dent down here," he said, nodding at a scuffed spot at the base of the instrument. "It works quite well, actually — just not as big as the one I need here."
South Albany band students say they've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of donations from the community following last Wednesday's fire, which gutted the high school's cafeteria, the band and choir rooms, and classrooms for home economics and child development.
The blaze is being investigated as an arson and Zachary Lee Burghart, 28, of Albany is in custody on charges of setting the fire.
All financial contributions are being funneled through the Albany Public Schools Foundation to help cover losses to the school's programs.
As of late Thursday, the foundation had collected $39,000 in actual cash donations, with more pledges on the way.
Hub City church donated $15,000, in spite of losing all its sound equipment in the blaze. Another $5,000 came from Samaritan Health Services, $3,592 from the Sunday offering from the First United Methodist Church, $2,000 from an individual for the home economics classes and $1,000 from Central Willamette Community Credit Union.
More donations were to be deposited Friday.
Insurance is expected to cover most of the costs of replacing the building and its contents, including the lost band instruments. But the district is anticipating incidental expenses, as well as costs to purchase new items to replace older ones that were destroyed.
In addition to Calapooia, donated instruments are coming from West Albany and Silverton high schools, Memorial and Timber Ridge middle schools, and Albany Music & Sound. Some of the percussion instruments are on loan from Oregon State University, and individuals contributed instruments as well.
On Friday, Andrew unwrapped several percussion items, long-term loans from West Albany graduate James Franklin, who told the band director he wanted to make sure the smaller items, such as tambourines, woodblocks and xylophone mallets, were covered.
"Pretty cool, right?" Andrew asked his class. "Ultimately, this is $1,500 worth of gear."
Band students are practicing backstage in the high school's theater at the moment, propping instrument cases atop cabinets containing cold cream and colored powders and squeezing past the stage curtains to get to the drum kits.
It's not ideal, Andrew acknowledged, and students are finding it a challenge to adjust quickly to the borrowed instruments.
However, he said, all the students are doing their best.
"I appreciate their positive attitudes and am doing my best to make sure they know they are well-supported by the community," he said.
Sophomore Emma Clare said she's aware — and grateful for everything.
"The schools have been really kind. Lebanon even wrote a letter," she said. "It's a real blessing."