Local Businesses, Schools, and Nonprofit Organization Collaborate for Music Education

As far back as 2003, SBEF has been working with community partners to keep music instruction in the classroom. Today, all students in the SBUSD kindergarten through 6th grade receive music instruction as part of their educational curriculum. And we all know how music education adds additional benefits to an education. The skills gained through sequential music instruction include the ability to analyze, solve problems, communicate and work cooperatively – all skills that are vital for success in the 21st century.

Jeff Peterson leading student band at Goleta Valley Junior High School.

Most recently the music teachers reported back to Margie Yahyavi, SBEF’s Executive Director, that the number of students in junior high electing to take music was soaring and there weren’t enough instruments to go around. Getting the word out, SBEF soon found funding from community partners including the Johnson-Ohana Charitable Foundation, Williams-Corbett Foundation, B&B Foundation, Performing Arts Scholarship Foundation, and Edison. But Jeff Peterson, director of the Goleta Valley Junior High School orchestra needed a set of chimes – and chimes, it turns out, are very expensive. “Jeff has developed a symphony orchestra at the junior high level that plays fully scored arrangements with complete instrumentation that call for the chimes,” said Nancy Mathison, music teacher at La Cumbre Junior High School. “His orchestra even has oboe, French horn and bassoon, but the chimes are a very critical instrument in the percussion section of a band or symphony orchestra. Some pieces just cannot be performed without the chimes. And that sound cannot be replicated by other instruments.”

That’s when Nick Rail Music Trust came to the rescue! The chimes were just delivered to Goleta Valley Junior High School last week and if they can be assembled quickly enough, the students will get a chance to play them before winter break.

Nick Rail Music Trust has been working with SBEF bringing the joy of new instruments to students for the past 23 years.

The idea for the trust dates back to 1989, when an eccentric older gentleman, a customer of several years, stopped in Nick’s store, Nick Rail Music, one day and handed him a mint condition, professional model Selmer Paris alto saxophone. “I’ve had it,” he said. “I’m not going to play any more, give this to some deserving, needy kid that will appreciate it and use it”. Nick never saw him again.

Mulling this responsibility over in his mind, Nick found himself hesitant to empower just one individual; someone who could certainly benefit but could also decide the next week to quit. Feeling a duty to realize the maximum potential from this selfless gift, he chose instead to sell the instrument (for $2,500.00) and use the proceeds as the seed money for a trust fund that could help many students; not just one.

The initial plan was to form his own non-profit, but he soon came to his senses after looking into the amount of time and paperwork it would require. He approached Santa Barbara Public Education Foundation board member and Nick Rail Music customer Joni Meisel, who kindly and successfully presented the concept to the board and superintendent, who together agreed that the trust could operate under the umbrella of the foundation.

This wonderful partnership has allowed Nick Rail Music to donate forty-five new instruments to Santa Barbara elementary, junior high and high school music programs over the past twenty-three years, with retail value in today’s dollars at slightly over $150,000.00. All instruments are purchased new through Nick Rail Music at dealer cost, with emphasis on supplying instruments necessary to a successful program that the district cannot otherwise afford.

The most recent donation of the chimes to GVJHS was a welcomed surprise! GVJHS has a fantastic program, offering students opportunities to perform in the beginning band, advanced band, two jazz ensembles and orchestra. Currently 65 students are in advanced band, 33 students in beginning band, 15-20 students in each of their two jazz ensembles and 38 students in the orchestra. Students perform in three major concerts during the year. In addition, the advanced band and orchestra perform at Disneyland each May. The jazz ensemble performs in the DPHS and the SBHS jazz festivals each year. Jeff Peterson directs the beginning, and advanced bands, and orchestra. John Douglas directs the two jazz ensembles.

John Douglas, a freelance pianist playing gospel, jazz, and Latin jazz from Santa Maria to LA, is music director for the DPHS and SBHS musicals, the GVJH musical, and shows in Ventura and around Santa Barbara. John is on the music faculty at Westmont and SBCC. Jeff Peterson has taught music in Santa Barbara County from 1988 to the present. He is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn, and has a master’s degree in music education from Cal Lutheran.

The GVJHS holiday concert is Thursday, December 20th at 6:30pm and is open to the public. Don’t worry, however. If you aren’t able to make it, there will be more performances in 2013! And you really should catch one! You’ll be glad you did.


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