Four years after budget cuts eliminated Ashland School District's fifth-grade stringed instrument program, a committee of volunteers is raising the money to reinstate it.
The program, which offers instruction to fifth-grade students at each of Ashland's three elementary schools, is an essential feeder program for middle and high school orchestras, said Larry Cooper, a local music lover and father of a former Ashland student.
"Many kids learn their first instrument in a public school, and it gives them a lifelong appreciation for music," said Cooper, who is helping organize an upcoming benefit concert to reinstate the program.
What: Benefit concert to bring back fifth-grade strings at Ashland schools
Who: Martin Majkut, Leslie Kendall and Ed Dunsavage, Scott Cole, Duan Whitcomb and many others
When: Silent auction at 7 p.m., concert at 8 p.m., Monday, July 21
Where: Mountain Avenue Theatre at Ashland High School, 201 S. Mountain Ave.
Tickets: $20 in advance at Paddington Station, $25 at the door, $10 for students
He and other volunteers are working under the umbrella of the Ashland Schools Foundation to raise the $25,000 needed to cover the additional salary and benefits for a music teacher to take on fifth-grade strings.
Since the fifth-grade strings program was eliminated by budget cuts in 2010, the number of students pursuing stringed instruments in middle and high school has diminished.
"It takes several years to become proficient in a stringed instrument," said Cooper. "They're so difficult to play. It's hard to start at age 11 or 12 in middle school."
Cooper's ad-hoc committee formed in April to help find a new orchestra director to replace retiring Gerry Pare. It figured with a new instructor taking over the program, now would be an ideal time to reinstate the elementary school component and make the director position full-time.
A nine-member committee interviewed and selected Lauren Trolley, an Iowa City orchestra teacher who will travel between Ashland's three elementary schools plus Ashland Middle School and Ashland High School teaching stringed instruments.
In subsequent years, the district will pursue every avenue of funding to continue the program if possible, Cooper said.
Since April, Cooper's group has raised about $7,500 of its goal, with the hope that the upcoming benefit concert will bring in the rest of the needed money.
The event begins with a silent auction at 7 p.m. The concert starts at 8 p.m. and will feature local musicians and alumni of the Ashland School District and Southern Oregon University. It takes place Monday, July 21, at the Mountain Avenue Theater, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland.
"It's going to be a great, enjoyable concert," said Cooper. "But it's imperative that we sell all of the 400 tickets."
Cooper said ticket sales and the silent auction probably will account for about $10,000 in revenue, so committee members will rely on added donations in order to reach their goal.
For more information about the concert and fundraising effort, see www.ashlandschoolsfoundation.org or search "Ashland 5th grade strings" on Facebook.
Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at email@example.com.