Michael McArthur says he’s looking forward to playing an 11-hour music party at the Polk Theatre April 16 because it benefits a good cause: musical instruments for local students who can’t afford them.

McArthur and band are scheduled to close out the 11-band, noon-to-11 p.m. “Play It Forward Polk 2016” festival. (Tickets are general admission and cost $15 or $10 for students with IDs available at the door or online.)

“Play it Forward is a cause that’s close to my heart.  The world can never have too much music,” the singer-songwriter says.  “I was a band kid (percussionist at Mulberry Middle School) and lucky enough to have parents who could afford my instrument, but we’d all be missing out if someone wanted to learn to play but couldn’t.”

The music will be nearly continuous, organizers Ron Tomlin and Natalie Oldenkamp say. Under a split-stage arrangement, one band will be setting up as another one plays.

Tomlin and Oldenkamp are both on the board of Play It Forward Polk, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has produced four previous fund-raising concerts. (Both are also former school band members: Tomlin was a drummer at Lakeland Junior High and Lakeland High School; Oldenkamp played contrabass clarinet at Southwest Junior High, where she was also a majorette.)


So far, the organization has raised more than $30,000 and also received donations of used musical instruments, Tomlin said. With the help of event sponsors, costs are kept low and 85 to 90 percent of proceeds go to the Polk Educational Foundation, he said.

From there, school system Fine Arts Director Beth Cummings works with schools that have band and orchestra programs to identify students who can’t afford to buy or rent the instruments needed to participate.

Since the program began, about 55 students have benefitted in addition to ones who received the approximately 30 used instruments that have been donated, she said.

“The idea is anybody who wants to be in the music program should be,” said Tomlin, adding that the school system has reduced funding for musical instruments.

Concert-goers will get wristbands that will allow them to come and go during the 11-hour event.

All of the bands participating have donated their time. They include:

concert poster


Play It Forward’s organizers say they’d like to expand to two benefit concerts every year. Says Tomlin: “Music makes the world a better place. We can’t afford to lose music in the school system.”

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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