By Barbara Grady-Ayer
It has become a right of passage for youngsters in Albany. When you reach fourth grade you get to pick out an instrument — shiny saxophones, silvery flutes, etc. – and play in a school band.
It almost didn’t happen this year.
So this past week, as 9 and 10 year olds in Albany public schools proudly chose their instruments and started playing – and some classmates began singing in school choirs – many adults were saying ‘whew, what a close call.’
Elementary music instruction was slated to be eliminated from the Albany Unified School District last spring after the state budget crisis forced the district to cut its spending by 15 percent.
But the Albany Music Fund, a volunteer organization of parents and teachers, saved the day – and the hopes of many a child.
The Albany Music Fund raised $84,000 to save music instruction in Albany’s schools. The sum allowed the elementary schools not only to restore instrumental instruction but to expand music to include vocal instruction or band instruction for every 4th and 5th grader. The fundraising also allowed Albany Middle School to keep its chorale program and allowed the high school to retain its range of music programs, specifically its Rythm Bound band.
“We worked very hard to accomplish this,” said Penny Barthel, president of the Albany Music Fund. “We are committed to keeping music really strong” in Albany Schools.” In fact, the organization has upped its fundraising goal for this current year to $125,000.
“As you can see, we’ve really stepped up to the challenges presented to us by the recent economic conditions,” she said.
So if you hear a classic tune coming from the lips of a fourth or fifth grader around this town, or for that matter a middle schooler or high schooler, remember how they may have learned that tune.
To learn more about the Albany Music Fund, go to www.albanymusic.org.