Q&A: Matthew Lauletta of Project Reprise

By Columbus Alive
From the September 5, 2013 edition
  • Photo by Meghan Ralston

Matthew Lauletta came to an epiphany through Craigslist. When he noticed the absurd amount of free pianos on the website, Lauletta came up with the idea for a non-profit called Project Reprise.

Project Reprise takes unwanted musical instruments (from anyone, in any condition) and finds someone to use it. Many of the recipients are schools or students, but Project Reprise hopes to find every would-be musician their instrument.

Since the non-profit is just getting off the ground, Lauletta is keeping instruments at his house. An entire room is filled with violins, trumpets, trombones and more. No pianos because there’s just no room. But one day Lauletta hopes to have a space for all those displaced pianos — on Craigslist or anywhere else — so somebody can play them.

Most of the instruments have been sitting in attics for a long time. We rehab them and find students or schools and other non-profits and donate it to them — no strings attached. The only thing we ask is if they ever stop using it, they give it back so we can give it out again.

Day-to-day it’s mainly me and one of our board members [who] deal with the majority of stuff. We have some volunteers, and we’re bringing in someone soon to handle our social media. But at this point it’s mainly me running around collecting instruments.

There are not many people that know about us [yet]. We’ve actually been getting more instruments in than people who want them. I don’t think that’ll be a problem for very long.

We’ve been working with Music Loves Ohio. They did instrument donation, but wanted to move more into the grant writing stuff so they handed everything over to us. So anytime anyone asks for an instrument or wants to donate an instrument through them, they send them to us. They had a very large inventory and we quickly made use of that.

We recently donated 20 instruments to Africentric Early College. This is their first year with a music program … and we donated three trumpets, five flutes, eight trombones, a tuba, a baritone, a couple bell kits for percussion when they move into concert and a bass drum. We just met with the Columbus Preparatory Academy and are working to get them some instruments. They’re also starting a first-year band.

Pianos are what I started out thinking we would donate a lot of … but don’t take them because we don’t have a place for them. Piano is a great instrument to start on. You learn bass, tremble clef and how to read music. My parents made me take two years of piano before I could play any other instrument, and I hated it. But I’m also really glad they did.

I’ve always been a big believer that instruments should be used, and shouldn’t be destroyed. Keep it. Play it. I found [a piano on Craigslist] from the 1890s that was beautiful. And it was going to be destroyed because they wanted to redo the flooring. If no one came to pick it up, it was going to be scrapped.

I didn’t think that was right. I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen and help kids who wanted to learn a musical instrument but couldn’t. It could possibly be a career for them. It helps with math and [builds] discipline because they have to sit down and do it consistently. At the very least it’s a skill to help them pick up chicks. [laughs]