Blog: Ken Kozora

Ken Kozora says he's a composer, performer, educator, thinker and doer. We say he's really really busy. Ken's the founder and Director of Horns for the Holidays, teaches music to emotionally impaired children, does event planning for the Ecology Center and contracts as a solar and wind installer. He'll be writing about all that stuff. Read on!

Ken Kozora - Post 1: Horns For The Holiday

Horns for the Holidays – How & Why

I’m so grateful that Horns for the Holidays has had a positive effect on so many children. It has also had a rewarding and profound effect on my life as well and I’d like to share its story. It is actually excerpted from a longer version that I had written a few years ago.

Supply and Demand

My whole life has revolved around music in one way or another. Besides playing many different instruments in all sorts of bands and orchestras, I managed a music store for many years. Customers would often bring in these smelly old instruments that they or their child had abandoned years earlier and after their other attempts to sell them had failed.

I explained that we really could only offer a few dollars, if any, because of the expense of repairing and remarketing. They would walk away frustrated, sometimes angry and would, I imagined, return the instrument to the attic or basement for another generation to dream or deal with. I felt their pain but I couldn’t help. Eventually I moved on from the music store but retained many contacts in the business and educational community.

Quandary – Vision - Decision

In 1996 around Thanksgiving, I was again asked to manage a different music store. I needed to respond to the offer by 12:00pm. It was 11:45 and I was pacing the floor with indecision. I needed a job, I was qualified and I liked the store and owners. However I’d already "been there done that" and was feeling burnt out on selling products that are marketed to be obsolete within a year and then are put in a landfill. I’d worked with a local environmental organization in various capacities over the years and this contributed to my awareness and concern. Being close to the holidays, I wondered if I should go help in a soup line or something. I was trying to think of something I could do to utilize my various skills to contribute to those in need.

Suddenly remembering all those old instruments customers used to bring in, a vision unfolded...... 

"a recycling program for musical instruments that helps underprivileged children"

Within fifteen minutes I realized I had all the pieces already in place and Horns for the Holidays was born. The job would have to wait!

Horns for the Holidays

I’m so excited about all the exposure Horns for the Holidays has received over the last couple of years thanks to our partnership with the Arts Alliance. I started this program in 1996. 12 years later I am proud to say that we have helped over 250 kids share in the joy of making music. Many children have benefited by the generosity of individuals, community organizations, media exposure, corporate contributions and educational guidance. 

The program concept is simple. Many people have instruments that are stuffed away in their attic collecting dust. They may never have been played or may need a little TLC. Every year throughout the holidays, you can donate these instruments to children who qualify. Qualified technicians repair the instruments and music educators identify children with strong interest who lack the financial resources. The child owns the instrument, however if they quit playing or purchase a new one they are asked to return the instrument to the "pool". The children gain valuable skills through their involvement in music; discipline from practice, listening, contributing and sharing in a group setting, self confidence and much more. These skills carry over to all other aspects of their life. The joy of making music is like no other, and reason enough for me, to justify its pursuit. 

Full Circle

A few years later I was being interviewed by Don Faber from the Ann Arbor News. One of his questions sparked the long forgotten memory of my very first horn and the fact that it had been donated by some anonymous, caring, unselfish individual. Until that moment I hadn’t recognized the profound significance of that act of generosity from someone so long ago. Music has played such an important role in my life and I suddenly felt a long overdue gratitude towards that anonymous person and for the original horn that got me started on this long musical journey. I also felt awe at the way life unfolds and sends messages in ways we don’t always recognize.


If you will indulge me (for the kids) I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to all those who have helped over the years. I do this here because I’ve not had the appropriate platform for this before, but also to illustrate that "It Takes A Village" (or in this case a whole county). This is one example of how our community has come together to make a difference. I hope you will take time to contemplate their generosity and dedication.

Ken Michalik, a teacher from Roberto Clemente School has been with me from the very beginning, identifying and mentoring students who are qualified and dedicated. Performance Network was also able to help for the first few years as the non-profit umbrella. Rick Witten came up with the catchy name, Anne & Rod Capps donated graphic design early on and Carty’s Music donated repairs as did a few others. Current Magazine, Heritage Newspapers as well as WEMU and the Ann Arbor News have helped to publicize over the years. Mark Palms from Riverfolk Music & Arts introduced me to the Arts Alliance. Doug Horn from Ann Arbor Public Schools, Mickey Richards and Dave Gilbert from OZ’s Music have all helped with repairing instruments the last several years. Thanks to all the drop off sights for your cooperation. Last but not least Tamara and Angela form the Arts Alliance. There are so many more of you…

And also A GREAT BIG THANKS to all the Donors! 

Horns for the Holidays is now under the umbrella of the Arts Alliance and thanks to their dedication and marketing power we collected close to 125 instruments the last two years! We still need financial donations to help pay for repairing instruments so please contact