From sixth-graders to high school seniors, many Davis students played for their own cause on March 27.
Davis public schools’ orchestras performed at the 14th annual Wennberg Music Festival at the UC Davis Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The event was part of an effort to support the Davis Joint Unified School District’s strings and orchestral programs.
Just two years ago the school district was considering cutting the program due to the budget crisis. The district would cut elementary school band teachers, but without music education from fourth grade onward, Davis Senior High’s Orchestra Director Angelo Moreno said the orchestras and bands in the upper grades would eventually wither away.
The Davis Joint Unified School District had also sent layoff notices to its junior high and high school music teachers. Their replacements would be elementary school teachers, eliminating the entire music program. However, the music booster group Davis Schools Orchestra Music Association (DSOMA), along with support from the UC Davis music department, local musicians, corporate donors and live student performances, were able to raise the $230,000 needed to save the program in an eight-week time period.
Phil Daley, events and publicity manager for the UC Davis music department, said he appreciates Moreno’s efforts to develop a strong music program for Davis’ middle and high school students.
“This program is a great opportunity for these students,” Daley said. “At the college level, we love seeing kids interested in pursuing music long-term. Some eventually come to college to study music or go on to be professional musicians.”
In all, the community raised $1.77 million for the Davis Schools Foundation’s “Dollar a Day” campaign by May 16, 2008, saving programs and teaching positions that had been threatened and assuring a brighter future for Davis High’s orchestras. In November of that year, Davis voters approved Measure W, a parcel tax that funds city schools’ academic and extracurricular activities.
The music program has grown from 35 students in 2000, when Moreno came on board, to 150 today. Last year, because of the increased class sizes, the district added the Baroque Ensemble to the existing symphony and chamber orchestras.
Moreno praised his students for their ability to balance academics, sports, music and other activities.
“The students are exceptional in that they have a dedication and discipline in wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” Moreno said. “Davis has a past of great music programs and with so many offerings in Davis it’s easy to not want to stay committed to one thing for long. These students are getting good training and seeing the benefits of hard work.”
Parents were also very pleased that the program was saved, including those who played an important role in preventing it from being cut.
DSOMA Vice President Hiram Jackson, who has three children, has been involved with the program since 2002 and was a member of the UCD symphony while a geology graduate student.
“I’ve been following what’s been happening at the school districts in the Sacramento area, and all have really been hurting,” Jackson said. “Davis may be the only complete music program from fourth grade on in the area. As parents we feel fortunate that schools are able to sustain music programs in these difficult times.”
The parcel tax will be in effect through the 2011-2012 school year, with voters needing to approve a new measure at that point.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.