Modesto High music teacher strikes a chord using online fundraising campaign

09/03/2014 6:49 PM

09/03/2014 6:50 PM

Modesto High School’s music program, where Frank Mancini once waved the baton, has hit some sour notes over aging instruments.

A Go Fund Me page, shown as created by Modesto High band and orchestra teacher Matt Cover, seeks to raise $50,000 to replace the bulk of the school’s musical instruments. As of Wednesday, the campaign had raised $1,450 with online donations by 37 people.

Debra Moset pitched in $100 and posted, “Our family has had four generations graduate from MoHi. Band was a major influence for our children.”

“I’m so happy to see you doing some crowd-funding for this very needed cause! I’m really sorry to hear that so many of the instruments are unplayable,” marching band alum Alyssa Lee wrote with her donation.

Cover, a Panther from the class of ’87, said Wednesday that he is excited to be teaching at his alma mater and hopes to raise the band back to the 126-student troupe it was when he played. There are about 50 band students and 48 orchestra students this year.

“It’s on the smaller side,” he said, in part because of cuts in elementary programs during tight times.

“One of our goals is to work with feeder schools to build their programs,” Cover said, including joint concerts with younger grades.

But a larger band calls for more instruments in working condition.

“Our band and orchestra programs are facing a horrible situation in that 70 percent of our instruments are no longer able to be repaired,” Cover wrote online, adding he hopes “to restock our shelves with new instruments our students will be proud to play on instead of the worn-out, broken, 40-plus-year-old instruments that some students are trying to use.”

“There’s always been a repair budget there,” said Jared Lawson, associate principal. “I think he has bigger, grander vision, and with that comes greater needs.”

After years of budget cuts, including to music programs, Modesto City Schools has more money to spend this year. Under its community-driven spending plan, music and arts education will be getting more funding, starting with stringed instruments for elementary schools.

“Music, as in any elective at the 9-12 (grade) level, is funded through a variety of ways,” said district Chief Financial Official Julie Betschart by email Wednesday. The district gives every high school a per-student allocation for electives and lets each site decide how best to spend the money, she said.

“In addition, many sites have strong booster organizations who support the elective and provide for additional needs,” Betschart said.

Modesto High does have an active band booster club “that goes above and beyond,” Cover said. Even his kids are fundraising more this year, he said. “I asked (a student), ‘Why are you working so hard?’ He told me, ‘I don’t want to see the program fail, Mr. Cover.’ Our students have a pride and a hopeful vision of bigger things.”

“I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for them,” Cover said. “Their hearts are huge.”

He would like to tap into community support for such student dedication.

“If everyone who has ever played in a school band or orchestra, or anyone who sees the value in music education in schools, gave $1-$5, I would have more than enough money to start the revitalization process – heck, even surpass my goal and completely renovate my program!” Cover posted.

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