Concert celebrates musical donation

June 09, 2000|By J. Kimball C. Payne | J. Kimball C. Payne,SUN STAFF

Proud as a parent, Jill Warzer beamed from the front row yesterday as a band of Baltimore students performed in the first concert many had played in, thanks in large part to a donation of instruments.

The fact that the schools have toned down their music curriculum faded into the background as the 65 pupils played selections from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" before about 75 pupils and parents in the auditorium of the Dr. Roland Patterson Academy in North Baltimore.

The young musicians from Patterson, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Garrett Heights Elementary-Middle School, and Benjamin Franklin Middle School got together for the first time yesterday, less then two hours before their first concert.

Benefits beyond music

Warzer, a music curriculum specialist for city schools, described the performance as "amazing," given the group's experience together.

JohnneyGaines, Patterson's music conductor, agreed, crediting the children's rapid development on the gift of the instruments, which TCI Communications of Baltimore and VH-1 donated to the school system last fall. Gaines said the program has benefited the children beyond musical performance and has affected other facets of the pupils' lives.

"We didn't have any instruments before last October," Gaines said, "and in just five months, with time off for vacations, this program has made a lot of difference. You can see the improvement."

The program has developed despite the fact that music and art have all but vanished from the school system's curriculum in the past two decades, partly because of budget cuts and back-to-basic academics.

Fifteen of 123 city schools have instrumental music programs,Warzer said.

Yesterday's program showed why they all should, Warzer said.

Through nervous jitters and muffled coughs, the pupils clung tightly to their instruments before the concert. After their performance, they smiled widely at their accomplishment.

Mahogany Bosworthand BrittneyPollard, from Jefferson Elementary, held their saxophones after the concert as they explained their musical progress.

Schools met criteria

Nine-year-old Mahogany said she and her bandmates had come a long way. "Yeah," added 10-year-old Brittney, "we got pretty good."

To be selected for the donation, the schools had to implement a new instrumental music program, budget for at least one music teacher, provide a clear curriculum, ensure instruction during the school day and allocate secure storage areas for the instruments.

The four schools got $100,000 worth of musical instruments through VH-1's Save the Music program, which began last fall.

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