MAG’s $10,000 Challenge Grant Will Provide New Opportunities for Students

The Music Advocacy Group (MAG) is pleased to announce the formation of the Joyce Burghardt Excellence in Music Fund honoring recently-retired and founding MAG Board member Joyce Burghardt. MAG’s new fund will focus on helping Orcas Island public school music students develop their music skills to the highest level. Four generous island donors have pledged to match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $10,000 in donations from the rest of the community to the Burghardt Fund between now and the end of 2017.


“Thanks to the generosity of these donors, and with anticipated help from the community, MAG can go beyond just helping with the basic needs of the school music department,” said Miriam Ziegler, President of MAG. “With this new Fund we will be able to provide exciting and potentially life-changing opportunities for our school music students.”

For more than 20 years the Music Advocacy Group has been supporting the K-12 music program in the Orcas Island Public Schools by advocating for program enhancement and providing financial assistance. With funds raised from their annual concert in March and through the Orcas Island Community Foundation (OICF) MAG has been able to purchase much-needed musical instruments, sheet music and other supplies, and pay for school buses to transport students to off-island competitions with their peers from other schools. One year MAG even helped raise money for teacher salaries to keep essential music classes in place. These ongoing efforts to supplement basic music education will continue.

“At the same time,” says Ziegler, “we want the community to know that there is nothing ‘basic’ about the skill level of our school ensembles.”  The Orcas band and strings ensembles consistently receive “superior” ratings at off-island contests, often matching or even surpassing the scores of all other schools competing. To be clear, the smallest school district in the regional music contests (Orcas) is competing at the same level with schools ten times their size.

“What we don’t have,” says Ziegler, “are the next-step learning experiences that match the talent of our students. But now with this fund, for the first time, we will be able to supplement our basic gifts with transformative musical opportunities. We will be able to support our very fine music teachers, strings director Pamela Wright and band director Darren Dix, in elevating the skills of our music students.”

Several exciting opportunities for improving skills and inspiring passion are being considered, and more information about those will be announced in coming months. “We have students whose skill levels rank them among the best in the state,” said Catherine Pederson, MAG’s past president, “and we have many others who have the potential to get there – they just need that extra boost. We are also a school where more than 50% of our students come from families who require assistance to pay for school lunches. This fund will allow us to give all our interested students innovative ways to raise the bar of their musical talents and motivate practice for excellence.”


“I am deeply honored by the establishment of this fund in my name,” said Joyce Burghardt.  “Twenty years ago the decision was made to eliminate the entire public school music program since it was considered a luxury and not especially important in the fast-growing computer age,” recollects Burghardt. “Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed who knew that music education was a critical part of a complete education. Because of MAG’s 20 years of dedicated effort, our Orcas students continue to experience the joy of creating music.”

Burghardt is known for her many contributions to the Orcas Island community, but she often says that her most meaningful endeavor has been to help build and maintain, through MAG, a public school music program that is characterized by its excellence. Donations to the Joyce Burghardt Excellence in Music Fund can be mailed to MAG at P.O. Box 1171, Eastsound, WA 98245. Or you can go to the MAG website at to make a contribution on-line. On-line donations are routed through the Orcas Island Community Foundation.  MAG is a 501(c)3 organization, and all donations are tax deductible.Burghardt Fund donate button 1