Pete Welch and Allison Shirk of Vashon Events show off some of their many instruments people can borrow for free. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

Pete Welch and Allison Shirk of Vashon Events show off some of their many instruments people can borrow for free. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

Music library lends instruments for free

Islanders walking through downtown Vashon in recent weeks may have spotted something new in store windows: an array of musical instruments, all ready to be loaned for free.

The owners of Vashon Events, Pete Welch and Allison Shirk, created the display to bring more attention to their instrument library, which is typically stashed in their south-end home. The idea behind the library is to allow people to learn to play an instrument without spending a lot of money to do so.

Now, they have about 45 instruments, “a wide variety of everything,” Shirk said, including stringed instruments, wind instruments and drums. An autoharp, an accordion, a keyboard and amps are also part of the collection — all available for borrowing for free.

“We are really hoping people will borrow the instruments, take them home and enjoy them,” Shirk said.

The typical borrowing term is six months, with “renewals” available if no one else is waiting for the instrument, Shirk said.

Originally, she and Welch considered asking for deposits for borrowing the instruments — but decided against it, she said, believing that might keep someone from borrowing an instrument they would like to try out.

Borrowers must simply fill out a form and promise to return the instrument in good condition. Vashon Events will only rent to islanders, and the instruments must stay close to home.

Shirk said she and Welch started the instrument library about a year ago when Laurel Saville and Ned Lecky donated some instruments they no longer wanted. Then other donations followed.

“A ton of people had instruments collecting dust,” she said.

Now, they have plenty of guitars but are looking for additional brass and woodwind instruments in good condition.

Instruments from the collection have been rented a couple dozen times since they launched the library, but both she and Welch say they want to encourage others to check them out as well. Shirk noted that when they are not checked out, they sit in the home she and Welch share.

The store front display has garnered attention, and Welch said they have fielded many inquiries because of it. Shirk and Welch say they would like to maintain a visible presence in town. A place to showcase all their instruments would be ideal, but another storefront to display some of the instruments would also be welcome.

Vashon Events is well known for providing many musical performances on the island — from weekend shows to all the music of the Strawberry Festival. But the organization’s mission — stated on its website — extends to supporting musicians by providing access to instruments, education and resources, as well as opportunities for paid performances. The library is part of that mission. Additionally, their website includes a list of music teachers on the island.

Shirk thanked Melinda Powers, who owns the space the display is in, for providing it for a month, as well as Stuart Gordon Tribble for helping create the display and Stageworks for donating lights.

She also expressed gratitude to John L. Scott for providing funds to help defray the cost of maintaining the instruments.

To learn more about the music library, as well as rent an instrument or donate one, see vashonevents.com or email vashonevents@gmail.com.

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