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Posted November 8, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Carrying a tune: Annual programs find funding to continue another year

Signal Knob Middle School eighth grade violinist Rachel Tischler will be first chair and concert mistress at the upcoming Middle School Band and Orchestra Festival on Saturday at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. Rich Cooley/Daily

violinist Rachel Tischler
Rachel Tischler and other students from throughout Shenandoah County will join together to perform in three annual concerts this school year after funding was found to continue the program. Rich Cooley/Daily

eighth grade violinist Rachel Tischler
Rachel Tischler has been playing violin for five years. At the concert on Saturday, she will strike the first note. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Amber Marra - amarra@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The show will go on for three countywide music festivals endangered by budget cuts this year.

When Dennis Lynch, executive director for the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, found out the three school-affiliated festivals were in danger of being canceled due to lack of room in an already tight Shenandoah County Schools budget, he knew he had to step in.

"We said 'oh, dear' because this is a wonderful experience that teaches all kinds of discipline and all kinds of self-confidence," Lynch said. "Everybody brings a whole different perspective, a whole different feeling to the music."

Now, thanks to a grant from the Marion Park Lewis Foundation, the Middle School Band and Orchestra Festival Concert; High School Band and Orchestral Festival; and the County-Wide Choral Festival will all happen again this academic year.

Each concert brings together student musicians from across the county under the direction of a guest conductor.

Like the lengthy audition process for the students playing in the festival, gaining the $4,000 grant was no easy task. Technically, MPLF does not award grants to public entities, like school systems, but thanks to the involvement of the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, a loophole was found, according to Delores Gordon, foundation administrator.

"Hats off to [MPLF]. Instead of finding a reason to say no, they found a way to say yes," Lynch said.

Now that most of the funding for the events has been procured, it is up to Lynch to start paying the $600 stipend for the guest conductors who attend each festival, as well as the $200 stipend for the accompanists. The guest conductors this year will include Shebe Lane, from Staunton, and Jeff Bryer, from Pittsburgh. 

Then there is the cost of transporting the students participating in each festival, as they come from schools in Shenandoah County, as well as the surrounding counties in the region.
It is also up to the students to get down to practicing. In order to qualify for each festival, an audition is required by each participant, most of whom have never had to audition before to meet the expectations of a guest conductor.

"It benefits the students because they are having to come up to a standard that may or may not be different than in the classroom," said Alexandra "Sandy" Hart, director of elementary education in Shenandoah County Public Schools. 

Hart was equally devastated when she heard that the festivals were on the chopping block for the coming year, not only because of the benefits for the students, but also for the music teachers.

"It's beneficial to the whole program because the host teachers also get to watch the guest conductors and there is usually an exchange of ideas there," she said.

Now the days before the first festival are growing shorter, as the Middle School Band and Orchestra Festival Concert will kick off on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. Until then, Rachel Tischler, a 13-year-old violinist from Signal Knob Middle School and concert mistress for the upcoming event, continues to play it cool.

"I think it's neat to work with students from different schools," she said. "There are always some people there that you've met in the past, but then it's always a little bit different."
Tischler has been playing the violin for five years and practices five days a week for about a half hour each day to keep her music flowing, which will be featured in several pieces at the first festival, such as Blue Danube, Western Frontier, Gargoyles, and Petite Tango.

"[The violin] always kind of intrigued me as a cool instrument to play," she said.

As concert mistress, Tischler will strike the first note at Saturday's concert, but many more will follow as auditions are in progress for the two additional festivals lined up for April 2011. The exact dates of both festivals will be released later, but for more information on the events, the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival can be reached at 459-3396.

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