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Donations keep the beat going in school district

Group antes up $17,000 for new instruments, equipment and salaries to maintain music program

Posted: June 16, 2009 9:00 p.m.
Updated: June 17, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Through bake sales, ice-cream socials and donations, a group of dedicated parents and teachers are helping to keep the music alive at Newhall School District.

Music Makers PTA, a three-year-old organization of up to 50 parents and teachers, presented a $17,000 donation to the district during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The donations, gathered over the past year, come as an increase from previous years.

“It’s a little bit more, despite the economic climate,” said outgoing president Anne Johnston. “People have really been very supportive.”

The funds will be used to repair and replace instruments and equipment and will offset part of the cost of a music teacher, said Nancy Copley, assistant superintendent of instruction.

“The money goes directly into the music budget,” she said.

Music Makers PTA’s donation represents 7 percent of the district’s music budget.

The money comes as an economic downturn has reduced funding to the district’s music program for the district’s 6,000 students, Copley said.

“They’ve really picked up a lot of the cost,” she said.

The district is the only local school district to offer an in-house music program for all of its students, Johnston said.

From kindergarten through second grade, students take part in music lessons. Third-graders learn to play the recorder and fourth- through sixth-grade students have the option of joining orchestra or chorus, Copley said.

The district also offers honor orchestra. That ensemble is composed of about 60 students.

And in a marked break from other districts, the district has five certificated employees who teach only music.

The funding comes at a time when research shows that music involvement at an early age can improve test scores and student learning, said Jami De Siena, music teacher.

“It’s just so important for kids to have music at a young age because that is the foundation for the rest of their lives,” De Siena said.

Music exposure early on means kids are able to learn concepts like how to match pitch and maintain musical timing, she said.

Johnston sees the link between music and everyday lessons in the classroom.

“It’s just one more way of just getting them involved in the learning process,” Johnston said.

Music gives the district’s K-6 students another outlet.

“Music is a place where everyone, especially the younger ones, can feel successful,” Johnston said.



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