This Sunday, March 4, a grand Orcas Island music tradition returns with fresh notes to welcome Spring. More than 100 members of our community music groups and school music ensembles will perform at the 21st annual benefit concert for school music hosted by the Music Advocacy Group (MAG) in the Old School Gym at 3pm. All are invited for an afternoon of singing and instrumental music featuring the Orcas Choral Society, Island Sinfonia, Orcas Island Community Band and our very own student musicians. Mingling with the musicians is encouraged at the post-concert reception, where sweet treats and eye candy, in the form of expressive student artwork, will be on display, thanks to a first-time collaboration with Art for Orcas Kids (A-OK).
“Sustaining music education in our public schools for over two decades has been possible only with the dedicated support of our many volunteers and supporters both in our community and off-island,” said Miriam Ziegler, President of MAG. “This concert is a tribute to our performing groups and our supporters, as much as it is a benefit concert for school music!”
MAG actively champions school music education in Orcas public schools by collaborating with music teachers and administrators, and volunteering in the music classroom. Together with help from Orcas’ unique community that understands the importance of learning music, it has been able to provide up to half the school’s budget for music program needs today.
All donations from this annual benefit concert go towards MAG’s general school music fund. This school year, MAG has helped the school purchase a new string bass and stool, a much needed cello rack for proper instrument storage and a beautiful set of orchestral chimes. The set of chimes will make a debut at this Sunday’s concert. It is the latest purchase made possible from funds raised in the Orcas Island Community Foundation’s year-end Holiday Gift Catalog.
Another highlight this year: Students in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, about 90 in all, are practicing for an excursion in March. They will be heading to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle to sing and make music with the Seattle Symphony, together with hundreds of students from around Washington State.
Competitions and music conferences are fantastic opportunities for exposure and knowledge exchange but audition fees and costs for off-island transport and hotel stays can discourage students from even trying out. This past year, MAG established the Joyce Burghardt Excellence In Music fund that focuses on supplementing our basic gifts with transformative musical opportunities for students. Over $10,000 in funds raised from the community were matched by a challenge grant of $10,000 from 4 island donors. So far, MAG has used some of those funds to invest in technology that aids music practice, purchasing SmartMusic, a practice assignment software package, as well as six new Chromebooks for Orcas public school classrooms and practice rooms. It has also helped promising students like high school band members Ewan Lister and Tim Jensen participate in high profile conferences like the Western International Band Clinic last November. “I am incredibly thankful that I was able to attend this clinic which has brought me further into the community of music, and further into the discipline of my instrument,” said Ewan Lister.
With planning for a new music wing and multi-purpose room as part of the approved school bond and levy proposal in 2017 already in the works, there remains much to do in 2018. But first, come to the concert this Sunday and be part of the celebration of a community coming together in support of school music. Donations are welcome and checks should be made out to Music Advocacy Group. MAG is a 501(3)(c) organization; all donations are tax-deductible. Please visit OIMAG.org for more information.