VANCOUVER, Wash. &

"Forte. Forte!

"I want you to be very quiet when it says, 'quiet,' &

then I want you to scare them. That's where the drama comes in."

Orchestra teacher Lori Brosius told Pacific Middle School orchestra students to turn up the volume as they practiced.

But the real drama in the Evergreen district school has been the response of musicians and music lovers who have made Pacific's string program whole again.

After a classroom fire on Jan. 7 ruined 65 violins, cellos, violas and basses used by players in grades five through eight, a flood of donated instruments, loaners, cash and other help has students playing again.

"It's been just wonderful. We went from nothing to everything, virtually overnight," Brosius said.

With so many instruments, Pacific now plans that next autumn it can loosen the limitations it had imposed on enrollment. Other Evergreen music programs will reap part of the windfall.

"Several kids who never had an instrument will have one now," said Principal Kathy Stellfox.

"It's not Beethoven; don't play it like Beethoven."

"This was just such an outpouring, it was a pleasure to be a part of," Stellfox said. A district SOS spread quickly via the media, including a classical radio plug.

"So many people from all ages and walks said, 'What can we do to help?' I just can't think of all the individuals who sent in a check for $100 or $150," she said.

IQ Credit Union gave $1,500 from its community foundation. Beaches Restaurant Bar offered to cover students' rental costs. A California woman was moved by the story, Stellfox said. So were "a pair of ladies who had lost spouses, who wanted their violins to go to children," she said.

"You're sad; you've been through some rough times, and it's coming out in your music."

On the receiving end are youngsters such as Mariana Dudko, 11. The sixth-grader had played her own violin almost two years, but the electrical fire left it unusable.

"I miss it a little," Mariana said. "But I'm going to get a new one (later), a little bit better than that."

Her loaner lacks a shoulder rest and needs more rosin for the strings, especially for cold weather. That makes playing a bit more difficult, and, "the notes don't sound like they should," she said.

But Mariana is grateful for the gift and the adjustments she's learned. "I'll be a better player," she said.

She wants a light-blue violin, sort of like the pink one her friend plays in class. "We're going to call them 'cotton candy,' " she said, with a smile.

"Good ... Not good."

Music makes for a strong personal connection that can last a lifetime.

"Each of the instruments has a story to tell," said Cindy Sandor. Pacific's front office secretary, she has fielded many calls from strangers willing to donate a chunk of their pasts.

"I have talked to the most amazing people, telling me about their history, the violin they got and when they played," Sandor said. "Every day, they make us cry."

Brosius has heard similar tales, how a single hour of music had brightened a whole week of school, back when. The lesson isn't lost on many adults, her principal said.

"People have such a passion for music, and kids, and the combination just resulted in this amazing support," Stellfox said.