If you ever happen to be walking by San Miguel Elementary before school on a Tuesday or Thursday you will hear the sweet sounds of students practicing their instruments. Trumpets, clarinets, flutes, saxophones, and drums fill the air thanks to a partnership between the San Miguel PTA and nonprofit Arts Initiative. October 31st was the first day of the class, where 15 students became acquainted with their instruments.
Arts Initiative, which runs band programs at several Silicon Valley schools, contacted Principal Christina Ballantyne about starting a band in San Miguel. It was perfect timing, according to PTA president, Allison Joe, because the school now has a fully-filled PTA board, which allowed them to move forward with starting the new program. Kids will learn how to play and how to read music.
It is a before-school program, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-8 a.m. It will run October-April and will include a performance in the spring on March 27th. There is room to grow the program, so the school is welcoming any second through fifth-grade students to join.
Joe said this is an important program to have, “To give children more opportunities to enrichment and culture, including music, which is known to have many positive benefits academically and emotionally. It can also give students who may not be strong academically another avenue for achieving success and mastery.”
Between the PTA, which had some surplus money from fundraising last year, and the Arts Initiative, a combined $150 in scholarships were awarded to help offset the tuition expense for students and to get the band off the ground.
All students need to rent, borrow, or buy an instrument to participate, as well as a music stand, and the Essential Elements music book.
“In addition to the $300 tuition, the monthly rental of the instruments will be hard for some of our families who have low incomes but still want their children to benefit from cultural enrichment and music instruction,” Joe said.
With more than 70% of San Miguel families living below the poverty line, the school is asking the community to help in any way with donations of money or instruments to help keep the program going.
“Music doesn’t come cheap but with the help of the community, a program can get started from the bottom up and become a beautiful thing,” said Manuel Mendoza, an Arts Initiative music instructor, who happens to be a former San Miguel student.
According to Mendoza, getting to be at San Miguel again has truly meant a lot as he has been looking for a way to give back to the school in some shape or form for quite some time.
“I remember every single one of my teachers!” Mendoza said. “The two I believe that are still teaching at San Miguel are Mr. Salaber and Ms. Hernandez. There are no words that I can use to describe these two wonderful individuals! These teachers really show what San Miguel is all about and have a dedication to their craft that is awe-inspiring.”
Now that he is a teacher, Mendoza said he always strives in teaching kids not only music skills but real life skills that they could use in life for the future.
“I always make sure that these kids know that they can be a great asset to society and that they do have value and meaning and with the skills, they learn in band, can thrive in whatever they do,” Mendoza said. “I also want these kids to feel accomplished in what they do and have them remember that it all started with them for this program and they should be proud of taking on that challenge!”
If you would like to make a donation to the band program, please contact the school directly at 408-522-8278.