Joel Plaskett plays a tenor guitar as he participates the launch of a musical instruments lending program at the Halifax Public Library in Dartmouth, N.S., on Wednesday. With a valid library card residents can borrow a wide range of musical instruments. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Joel Plaskett helps launch instrument borrowing program at Halifax libraries

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia rocker Joel Plaskett says the library was always a source of inspiration for his music, and he hopes a new program that allows the public to borrow instruments will help encourage more musicians in the Halifax area.

Plaskett was on hand Wednesday for the launch of the Sun Life Financial Musical Instrument Lending Library program, which allows anyone with a library card to borrow instruments — including guitars, banjos and drums — from any of the Halifax Public Libraries.

Speaking from the Alderney Gate Public Library in Dartmouth, Plaskett said he grew up borrowing recorded music from the library, which in turn inspired his songwriting.

But he lived in a musical household where he had access to a variety of instruments, and he recognized that most people don’t have that option.

He said the library program will allow the public to easily explore instruments without having to shell out a lot of money to buy or rent gear.

“To me, it kind of levels the access point … Fundamentally, that’s what the library is all about. With books, it’s a way to educate yourself for free. Music is a part of education,” said Plaskett.

“People use music for all sorts of reasons — sometimes as a career, and it became a career for me because it’s what I knew how to do — but I do think having access is the beginning of a way to fall in love with playing and to teach yourself something and to challenge your brain and use your heart.”

The instruments will be stored at the Alderney Gate Public Library, but are accessible from any library. Library card holders can look through a catalogue at the library or online and request an instrument, which can be picked up at their local branch.

Sun Life Financial has donated $140,000 to the Halifax Public Libraries to pay for the program’s operating costs, and has also provided 150 guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, violins, drums and portable keyboards.

“Music is a large part of the Maritime spirit and we’re so excited to be able to bring this program to Halifax. Music has the ability to connect us with one another while allowing us to express ourselves on a deeper level,” said Paul Joliat, an assistant vice-president at Sun Life Financial.

Halifax Public Libraries will also be holding a musical instrument donation drive, running until Aug. 11 to add to the collection. Residents can drop off their gently used instruments to any branch.

Sun Life Financial has also created a series of videos to help people play the instruments.

The program is already available in eight other Canadian cities including Toronto, Vancouver and Fredericton.

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