Lauren wanted to learn to play music. Her parents encouraged her, but weren’t sure she’d stick with it and couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money on an instrument. Luckily, by the time Lauren got to Culver City Middle School (CCMS) the school had instruments to lend to her and to any other students who wanted to make music, but didn’t have instruments of their own.
It wasn’t always like that. Just a few years before, CCMS had had few instruments to lend— one cello, one bass, four broken trombones….
That’s when the Culver City Education Foundation (CCEF) and the Fineshriber Family Foundation stepped in. Over the past four years, the Fineshriber Family Foundation has donated $188,000 to CCEF for the sole purpose of building our middle and high school music programs by putting musical instruments into the hands of every student who wants to learn to make music, regardless of economic circumstance.
Lauren chose the viola and she practiced every day— more than two hours sometimes. “I was just so happy playing and watching myself get better,” she beamed.
Thanks to the new instruments, student participation in the middle school instrumental music program has grown from 128 students before the instruments started arriving to 202 students today. Those instruments have been a dream come true for CCMS instrumental music teacher Paul Witt, because it’s given him the chance to introduce so many more students to “the wonderful and challenging world of music.”
Sascha, a violinist, has learned a lot from Mr. Witt. “He puts up a threshold and you have to meet that standard. I used to be in the back of the advanced strings, and I didn’t think I’d ever get to the front, but now I’m the principal first violin [of the Advanced Symphonic Strings].”
Lauren tells a similar story. “I used to think people had to start playing musical instruments when they were really young, and that discouraged me,” she explained. “The other people were so good. Some of them had taken private lessons. I didn’t think I’d ever get to the advanced group. I’m really proud of myself for getting here.”
All of the instrumental music students are benefitting from the new instruments— even the ones that already have instruments of their own, like Diego, who plays alto sax. He’s been playing since 4th grade, but playing with other students in the advanced band is very special. Diego thinks of himself as a piece of a puzzle, becoming ever more aware of how he fits into the ensemble and how his instrumental part fits into each piece of music that they play.
Because they’ve learned to play musical instruments and spent years working in ensembles, these students will hear music differently for the rest of their lives. The listening skills, analytical abilities, understanding of group dynamics, sense of accomplishment and work ethic they’re developing will enrich and enhance all they do for the rest of their lives. That’s the power of a generous donation.
CCEF is proud to raise funds that provide every CCUSD student with opportunities and our teachers with the instruments they need to teach and inspire our kids. Be a part of CCEF’s end of the year campaign. Make your generous donation today at www.ccef4schools.org or send a check to CCEF, P.O. Box 4178, Culver City, CA 90231.
By Leslie Adler, CCEF Executive Director and Jody Reichel, CCEF Communications Chair