Donation helps Whitefish music program

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New instruments, sheet music and choir robes soon will be available for Whitefish music students thanks to a  $30,000 donation.

The money from an anonymous donor came through the Whitefish Community Foundation.

Orchestra director Jenanne Solberg and band director Mark McCrady said the grant money will have a large impact on the music program.

“This most recent donation will benefit literally hundreds of students in the next 20 plus years who will play these instruments,” McCrady said. “Some will discover a lifelong love for playing music, which cannot happen without proper equipment.”

The donor specified that the money be split into $20,000 for the band program, $9,000 for the orchestra and choir robes and $1,000 for sheet music.

Foundation Director Linda Engh-Grady said the donor was very pleased with the music program and the organization and dedication of the instructors.

“Funding for music instruments or upgrades is not something the school district can afford,” McCrady said.

Every year the instrument repair technician sets aside a few more instruments that are unrepairable because the cost to fix them has surpassed their actual value.

The grant will allow the band to replace some of those instruments, such as flutes, clarinets, trombones, a tuba and cymbals.

“We’re excited to be able to replace some of those instruments this year, as well as purchase some items our band program has never had,” McCrady said.

Solberg said the donor had no connection to the schools but was interested in supporting the music program because of the value the school and community have placed on music education.

“We never turn away a student who wants to play an instrument — when rental fees are an issue, we find a way,” Solberg said. “When a particular instrument is not in our inventory, we find one.”

The orchestra instrument inventory is in pretty good condition because of previous donations, but the latest money will go to purchasing four cellos, two violas and high-quality bows for advanced students.

The orchestra program began in 2003 with an original purchase of 30 violins for the fifth-grade music curriculum. Now, the orchestra program serves 135 students in sixth through 12th grades. Most of the additional instruments have been purchased through grants from the foundation.

For the choir, much of the need is for new robes. About 40 robes are expected to be purchased.

“These simply need to be replaced as they are wearing out significantly after some 50 years of use,” Solberg said.

The money for sheet music will be split between the band, orchestra and choir for middle and high schools. All three programs are trying to build better music libraries.

It’s not unusual for a concert band title to cost more than $100; pep band music costs around $50 per title. It can cost $80 to purchase music for every singer for one choir piece.

McCrady said it’s a challenge to keep the music libraries current especially with the addition of new ensembles to the high school program.

“This gift will allow each of the high school music instructors to purchase a few gems,” he said. “The donor specified that for us to buy some modern music that the kids will enjoy — we will do just that.”

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