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Education Foundation Helps Schools Make Beautiful Music

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 Ray Huard …Soon, the sounds of music will be reverberating through more Vista Unified School District elementary schools, thanks in part to the Vista Education Foundation.

The foundation recently donated nearly $4,500 to buy equipment to help reach a five-year goal of having a full music program in every elementary school.

“It’s so awesome to get this,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Sherry Opacic. “This is a happy day.”

Foundation President John Herrera said the organization, founded in 2002, supports “those programs that have been cut by the state and not funded at appropriate levels,” and the arts have been one of them.

“We have not had sufficient music programs,” Herrera said.

A May choral performance at Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheater by about 600 students from throughout the district was a strong indication of public support for school music programs, Herrera said.

The district, in the 2016-2017 school year, hired two music teachers to kick off its plan to create a music pathway, offering music throughout a student’s time in Vista Unified, according to Shari Fernandez, director of elementary curriculum and instruction.

Those teachers divided their time between four elementary schools – Lake, Olive, Maryland and Breeze Hill.

The new music teacher will be assigned to Grapevine and Monte Vista elementary schools, Fernandez said.

Some Vista Unified elementary schools, such as Empresa and Temple Heights elementary schools in Oceanside, already have music programs funded by parents, Fernandez said, but the goal of the new program will add music education to others in the district.

L-R: Foundation President John Herrera, Foundation Secretary Susan Stuber, Herrera’s great granddaughter, Hana Nam, 10; Empresa Elementary School teacher Rich Cook, Foundation Vice President Gary Garretson, Sherry Opacic, Vista Unified Assistant Superintendent; and Shari Fernandez, Vista Unified director of elementary curriculum and instruction.

Empresa School music teacher Rich Cook

Vista Unified includes some neighborhoods in Oceanside, where about a third of its students live.

Empresa is the home school of music teacher Rich Cook, a trained jazz trumpet musician who is heading the district push to expand music education. Cook has taught music at Empresa since the 1997-1998 school year and leads the band at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Encinitas, which he called “the hippest Lutheran Church west of the Pecos.”

“If we’re about educating the whole child, and we’re leaving certain aspects out of that, then we’re failing,” Cook said. “Music includes everything. It includes culture and history and it includes math. It’s the one discipline that brings all the other disciplines together.”

Math has a clear connection to music, as students learn about quarter notes, half notes and full notes.

“I have a teacher who won’t teach fractions until I teach them music,” Cook said.

Living in such a diverse community as San Diego County, music also is “a great place to learn, in a low pressure, fun way, about different cultures students run into contact with, or even those they don’t,” Cook said. “It’s a very important investment to make.”

The foundation donation will give a big boost expanding music programs.

Among other things, the foundation donation will be used to buy speakers and amplifiers, “so the program will be high quality,” Cook said.

“A little boom box is not going to make it,” Cook said.




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  • Published: 1 year ago on June 20, 2017
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  • Last Modified: June 20, 2017 @ 12:48 am
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