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A grand plan for making music in the SCV

Fundraiser to purchase grand piano is held by Music Teachers Association

Posted: October 17, 2009 8:01 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Music students Matthew Marcelino, left, and Dayton Muxlow are taught by members of the SCV Branch of the Music Teachers Association of California.

 

It was music to community members' ears when the Santa Clarita Valley Branch of the Music Teachers Association of California held their first annual Practice-A-Thon.

The fundraising music festival began on Sept. 14 and ran for two weeks, giving local residents a chance to sponsor music students of all ages while they practiced on their instruments.

The association's music students participated in the venture, which was organized to raise funds for a seven-foot Yamaha Grand Piano to be used for recitals and concerts at NorthPark Community Church in Valencia.

"Everyone is so excited about this fundraiser because it allows the students to work toward something so positive for themselves and the community around them," said Suzy Hanna, Music Teachers branch vice president.

The SCV branch of the professional organization was formed in 1979 and has upheld its mission to see the "promotion of musical culture and the pursuit of excellence in the field of music education."

Keeping on beat with the organization's purpose, Hanna adopted the idea for the practice-driven fundraiser after attending the MTAC's annual state convention over the summer.

The convention invites the 5,000 members of the 63 California-based association branches to learn from and converse with fellow music teachers and acquire new ideas to bring back home.

Practicing for proceeds was one idea Hanna knew she wanted to explore.

"The event gives students a chance to practice their musical abilities for a good cause," said Hanna. "It also gives their parents, teachers, neighbors and friends a chance to take pride in knowing they helped give students the opportunity to have such a beautiful instrument."

Teachers in the organization know how practice makes perfect in many ways.

Students asked community members to sponsor their practice-time, hour-by-hour over the 15-day period.

Whether tinkering away on piano keys or perfecting their down bow on violin, students scaled their way toward the instrumental goal. But obtaining the ivory-colored keys is only part of the association's grand plan.

Ten percent of proceeds were set aside to benefit the association's music program for The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley.

"We want to give those who are underprivileged the chance to gain access to the gift of music," said branch president, Alicia Jones. "Music is a privilege and we want to share it with our community however we can."

The association hopes to purchase recorders for children in the club and teach a music class once a week, beginning in Spring 2010.
"By coming in to give these lessons, we are allowing children an opportunity to play music that they might not otherwise have," said Hanna.

Jones knows why this opportunity is important to offer.

"We have continually seen how music helps individual development," said Jones. "Having access to music allows this development to grow in the brain, the heart and in who you are as a person. I consider myself blessed to watch as this happens in each one of our students."

But the association's teachers are not the only ones who provide musical development to others.

After attending the state convention in 2006, five piano students from the SCV branch came back to town with the idea to serve the community through music.

With the support of association members and granted permission from the Westfield Valencia Town Center Mall, the piano students performed a selection of tunes for pleased crowds of holiday shoppers in November 2006.

Since their first public stint, The Music Students' Service League of Santa Clarita Valley continues to provide music to mall-goers during performances on the last Friday of each month.

But the league of music-driven students doesn't stop at the mall.

The students also visit a number of local senior homes, regaling the elderly residents with musical pieces on piano as well as the flute, alto saxophone, violin and cello.

The league has grown from its initial five members to more than 30 junior high and high school-aged local branch students.

"It's a wonderful thing to see students reaching out to the community," said Hanna. "The service they are doing brings so much joy to people."

Hanna works with league students as their teacher and advisor during rehearsals and performances.

The league has performed at preschool graduations, communion parties and was invited to perform at a Parks and Recreation Winter Festival.

To make sure that their music continues to be played on a positive note, students have conducted various bake sales to raise funds for the association.

"We are always so proud of our students," said Jones. "They continue to add something to people around them and also themselves as musicians."

Jones knows that musical ability can emerge at any age.

"I teach the youngest students that we have," said Jones. "It's a special thrill to help shape their development and see how much they grow through learning."

Jones teaches age and development appropriate musical curriculum in the association's program, The Music Garden.

Teaching newborns to 10 year-old students, Jones has her hands full orchestrating a garden of musical potential.

"It is never too early to tap into musical ability," said Jones. "From an early age, the students are also learning important skills like confidence and socialization."

Getting up in front of an audience is something that the association teaches in the bucket-loads.

Students are given the opportunity to hone their musical talents as well as performance abilities during competitive and non-competitive recitals given by the branch.

At the state convention, students who achieve the highest marks at the competitive recitals are given the opportunity to participate in various competitions and score performances at the state convention each year.

Winners who perform at the convention are awarded cash prizes for their efforts, but teachers know that the skills gained in this experience can be priceless.

"Over 30,000 students from the state branches audition for the competitions each year," said Madeline Miller, member of the MTAC State Board of Directors. "The competitions give students the opportunity to exercise their abilities and network themselves with other world-class musicians."

Only three-percent of students who audition are chosen to perform at recitals at the convention, in the presence of professional musicians, composers and other musical artists.

Miller has seen her fair share of growth in music students since the founding of the SCV branch.

As one of the branch's founding members and first vice president, Miller knows that learning is key for those who want to keep music flowing.

"There is always more to know and learn from in the world of music," said Miller. "Since teachers are always in their own music studios, their professional growth might become stale."

The organization offers a Certificate of Merit Program, created as an in-depth testing procedure for music students.

The program provides a systematic and comprehensive plan to develop performance skill, technique, ear-training, sight-reading, improvisation, repertoire and the understanding of music theory.

Teachers learn to provide practical goals to help their individual students maintain a steady and focused appreciation of their musical studies.

"This program gives us a curriculum to follow and allows us to stay on track," said Hanna. "It has been such a successful model that other countries such as China have actually purchased it from our association."

The program for teachers and students is the largest state testing program in the nation that encourages students to strive for musical excellence, while creating opportunities for them to share their music with others.

Teachers also get the chance to be students at the convention, which offers workshops in rhythm, duet playing and music philosophy and principals.

"We go to learn more so that we can come home and teach more to our students," said Hanna. "It's a beautiful cycle."

The cycle has continued to inspire music teachers and students since the organization was founded in 1897.

"There is a secret to our work," said Hanna. "We open ourselves up to the world of music in order to unlock the passions inside of each one of our students. It is the very definition of inspiring."

For more information about the SCV branch of MTAC, visit www.scvmtac.org.

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