In 2011, the New Hanover Board of Education voted to close D.C. Virgo Middle School due to budget cuts, and 190 students were bussed to Holly Shelter Middle School during the 2011-2012 school year. In 2012, the school re-opened with a new name: D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy. More than 100 sixth graders enrolled in the school, and the only materials the teachers and students had to work with were iPads, which were issued to each student.
“I had an empty band room,” said Cameron Bolish, Virgo’s band director. Bolish used iPad apps, like GarageBand, to teach music lessons.
“Our kids have taught us the pros and cons of the iPad,” he said.
However, three weeks into the school year, Bolish had a stroke of fortune. Bob Moulton, CEO of National Pawn, donated more than 100 instruments to Virgo’s band program.
“His mission in life is to put a better spin on the pawn industry, to make it seem less grimy,” Bolish said.
Moulton, a Wrightsville Beach resident, owns nine pawn shops in Wilmington, Raleigh and Durham. His objective was, and still is, to help the community.
“It’s all based on what I needed as a kid,” he said.
When Moulton was in sixth grade, he wanted to play in his school’s marching band, but he couldn’t afford a new instrument. Instead, his mother bought him a $15 cornet at a yard sale. Later, his mother bought him an upgrade — a $50 cornet from a pawn shop.
In 1987, Moulton opened his first pawn shop in Durham. Before long, he owned stores in three counties, which allowed him to reach out to students in need by buying gently used band instruments and giving them to schools. Before donating to Virgo in 2012, Moulton donated more than 800 instruments to schools in the Raleigh area.
“Since we had a store in New Hanover County, we decided to expand it,” he said.
Like Bolish, Moulton was surprised by Virgo’s lack of supplies.
“I was overwhelmed by the need,” he said.
Moulton’s donations are no small favor — a set of 100 band instruments has a $15,000 value.
“I think we paid $2,000 for a saxophone,” he said.
However, some instruments are easier to obtain than others.
“It’s harder to get trumpets,” Moulton said. “We seem to get a lot of flutes and clarinets. Saxophones are harder to get as well, probably because they’re so expensive.”
Moulton has been collecting instruments to donate this fall as well.
“I fully plan on giving 400 plus instruments to the school systems this year,” he said.
Anyone who would like to sell gently used band instruments should visit National Pawn at 1319 S. College Road or call 910-793-3333 for more information.