— from Sharon Ho —
Every first Sunday of March, for twenty straight years, there has been an Orcas Island musical tradition as reliable and affirming as the coming of spring. The annual Music Advocacy Group concert to benefit school music, brings together the Orcas Choral Society, Island Sinfonia, the Orcas Community Band and our award-winning Student Musician groups for an afternoon performance in the Old School Gym. Besides over 100 musicians, many individuals work behind the scenes with the Music Advocacy Group (MAG) to get the sound, lights, stages, seating, and post-concert reception ready for over 300 audience members.
“Everyone is invited. It is so valuable for our supporters to see what they have made possible, and for school administrators, music teachers, and music students especially, to connect with them and feel encouraged by the support for music education here,” said Catherine Pederson, the President of MAG. “Our robust school music program has been sustained by the support of the music loving community on Orcas Island.”
Pederson also noted that many in the audience do not have school-age children now, but they understand the value of music education, whether it is through their own life experiences or from raising their children.
“Music as a mainstay, early in life, encourages a young person to listen. To listen to themselves, to others, to communities and cultures beyond their every day lives. Imagine if each of us were attuned in such a way,” said Victoria Parker, a founding member of MAG who still plays an advisory role. “MAG’s focus on music in our public schools means that music is within reach of every student. Supporting MAG means supporting music in children’s lives.”
Over 260 K-12 students benefit from the school music program. Board members spend time in the classroom. They identify needs with teacher input and advocate for policies that support school music in meetings with the school board and administrators.
Fundraising is an important part of MAG’s work, and donations at this annual concert has been its main source. In recent years, MAG has been able to donate $9,000 to $12,000 annually to school music. The funds have gone directly to helping hundreds of Orcas public school children from kindergarten through high school by providing music sheets, music instruments and equipment, participation in regional music competitions, festivals and honor groups, and professional teacher enrichment opportunities for teachers.
The concert would not be possible without the music community’s support. The featured music groups—the largest groups on Orcas—donate their time and energy to put up this big show for school music. “Many of our supporters are Orcas old-timers and this concert has become a spring season opener of sorts,” reflected Pederson. “Wouldn’t it be great if this tradition continues on for the next decades with new families of islanders and supporters who want their kids and grandkids to have music education in school?”
It has also been concert tradition to end the afternoon with audience participation in a familiar favorite, “God Bless America.” For this 20th anniversary, MAG has a new twist: It will premiere a specially commissioned arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is My Land” for students, community groups, and audience to play and sing together.
Bring your voices, open your hearts and wallets, support school music. Learn more about MAG and how you can get involved at www.OIMAG.org.
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