The Friends of Colchester Music is a new organization which brings together parents of young musicians and other interested community members. The purpose of "Friends" is to act as a booster organization to the Colchester School District, providing opportunities for all students to have quality musical experiences throughout their public school years.
It's all about the students
Lynn Appleget, co-founder and chair of Friends, says that they are currently in the middle of their 2008-2009 corporate campaign drive.
“Our goal here is to raise $10,000 to assist in the maintenance and purchase of some very old band instruments that are shared between three of our district schools and two student musicians,” Appleget says.
Co-founder and Colchester Middle School band director Andrew Rousseau explains that Friends has been, and will be, contacting between 100 and 200 businesses for support throughout this campaign.
"We are concerned with student need. It all comes back to the focus on the student."
- co-founder Lynn Appleget
The organization also fund-raises through direct donations at school concerts, Appleget says.
“In the community at large, [Friends] is continually on the search for used instruments for donation to the schools and to provide for their refurbishment,” she says.
Friends held a recent coin drop event which provided money for the Colchester High School music department. This is used to set up a nonprofit student musician "store" where students can buy accessories and supplies at affordable prices, Appleget says.
A main goal of the organization is to build accounts through these fund-raisers so that they are able to purchase band materials that can't be fit into the budget, Rousseau says.
“The goal here is to raise money to buy things that go above and beyond normal financial needs,” Rousseau says. “It can be used for large instrument purchases...the kind of things that we wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.”
From the beginning
The idea to begin Friends came in 2005 when Rousseau approached Appleget. They agreed that it was important for the band and choral programs in the school district to receive more support, Appleget says.
“There were no organizations from parents for support,” Appleget says. “There are a lot of little things that teachers need that are unanticipated. There are broken instruments and a need to finance trips.”
Rousseau recognizes the lack of support and funding for the music program.
Colchester Middle School band students practice during a morning session.
(Photo courtesy of Andrew Rousseau)
“The music programs tend to be under-supported and under-funded,” Rousseau says. “There tends to be little time for music; it's not a high priority in the budget...We want to help advocate for music in schools and celebrate what students are doing in music.”
The organization is able to support student musicians in three ways: through instrument scholarships for students who cannot afford to rent or own an instrument, assisting in purchase and repair of large costly instruments on an emergency basis, and finally, supporting students by providing assistance with festival fees and transportation costs, according to Appleget.
A group on the rise
Since the group first met in 2005 at the end of the school year, it has come a long way in its goal to get student musicians where they want to go, Appleget says.
“We're plotting along, but we're getting there,” she says. “We've come a long way from sitting around a table in 2005 wondering what we would be all about.”
The support continues to grow and the organization is very encouraged, Appleget says.
“Every year there has been an increase in funding and more and more donations,” she says. “Part of our mission is to keep children from being left out because they don't have an instrument to play.”
Part of the progress has come through the fast transactions that teachers are able to make with the organization, Colchester High School choral director Paul Hawkins says.
“The turn-around-time is very fast,” Hawkins says. “When a student comes up short I can go to the Friends...I can get a turn-around check in a couple of days.”
While Friends is becoming more successful, Appleget continues to stress the idea that the organization does not want to undermine the school's agenda or influence music choice by the teachers.
“We are concerned with student need,” Appleget says. “It all comes back to focus on the student.”