Proud as a parent, Jill Warzer beamed from the front row yesterday as a band of Baltimore students performed in the first concert many had played in, thanks in large part to a donation of instruments.
The fact that the schools have toned down their music curriculum faded into the background as the 65 pupils played selections from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" before about 75 pupils and parents in the auditorium of the Dr. Roland Patterson Academy in North Baltimore.
Hailing from Patterson, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Garrett Heights Elementary-Middle School, and Benjamin Franklin Middle School got together for the first time yesterday, less then two hours before their first concert.
Warzer, a music curriculum specialist for city schools, described the performance as "amazing," given the group's experience together.
Johnney Gaines, Patterson's music conductor, agreed, crediting the children's rapid development on the gift of the instruments, which TCI Communications of Baltimore and VH-1 donated to the school system last fall. Gaines said the program has benefited the children beyond musical performance and has affected other facets of the pupils' lives.
"We didn't have any instruments before last October," Gaines said, "and in just five months, with time off for vacations, this program has made a lot of difference. You can see the improvement."
The program has developed despite the fact that music and art have all but vanished from the school system's curriculum in the past two decades, partly because of budget cuts and back-to-basic academics.
Fifteen of 123 city schools have instrumental music programs,Warzer said.
Yesterday's program showed why they all should, Warzer said.
The schools had to implement a new instrumental music program, budget for at least one music teacher, provide a clear curriculum, ensure instruction during the school day and allocate secure storage areas for the instruments.
The four schools received $100,000 worth of musical instruments through VH-1's Save the Music program, started last fall.