By: Jeffrey Stauffer – Executive Director
Since our last Elville Center for the Creative Arts update, the charity was blessed to celebrate its five-year anniversary! Founded in 2014 by Stephen Elville, the mission of the Elville Center is to improve the quality of life of children of all ages by providing them the opportunity to learn music theory and application, experience cultural events related to the musical and creative arts, and to use music and the promotion of music-related activities to transcend social and economic divisions. The Elville Center partners with local and regional businesses and school music programs to give the gift of music to children of all ages who want to participate in music but don’t have the means to do so on their own. The Elville Center refurbishes donated musical instruments, purchases new instruments for programs, provides rental instruments and music lessons for students, funds field trips, helps organizations develop music programs, partners with professional organizations to fund music education initiatives, and much more.
Looking back over the past five years, it is humbling to see how far the Elville Center has come in its own journey to “Make a Musical Difference in the Lives of Children” and how time flows at an “allegro” pace. As many of you know, the Elville Center’s first project started with a phone call from a then 7th-grader at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie named Daniel Coleman, who heard about the charity on his (and our) favorite radio station, 91.5 WBJC and contacted us to ask for instruments to benefit his school’s band and orchestra. Fast forward five years, and the Elville Center is now helping schools and organizations around the state with a whole host of needs, and that young man has grown into an Eagle Scout who is off to college this fall with a list of accomplishments that could practically fill this entire newsletter!
The organizations and programs the Elville Center has partnered with over the past five years are all unique and based throughout Maryland – Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Howard County – but the one common thread between them is their leaders’ intentions to improve their programs for the benefit of their students, and to give them the best environment possible to learn, grow and be fulfilled in their musical journeys. Over the Elville Center’s five-year musical journey, we have been fortunate to collaborate with some amazing teachers, school administrators, and business leaders, and we’ve been blessed to be in a position to offer musical opportunities to thousands of underprivileged students along the way! In this ever-changing, sometimes difficult world in which we live, the Elville Center remains steadfast in its mission of partnering with our communities to help those less fortunate rise above their challenges through the gift and bond of music.
That bond of music brought the Elville Center and Monarch Annapolis together last December, when, through a friend, Instrumental Music Teacher Christine Brimhall heard about the Elville Center and inquired about support for this new charter school. While the staff and students are enthusiastic about music, developing its program has proved challenging, as most of its families do not have the capacity to rent instruments or purchase supplies, and the school has an abundance of neither.
However, the Elville Center was able to step in and, at Ms. Brimhall’s request, provide the school’s music program with a host of reeds and valve oils and other supplies students need for their instruments, as well as a number of percussion instruments to develop that section of the program’s band. And, this fall, the Elville Center visited Monarch again with brass and woodwind instruments to boost the school’s inventory for incoming students who cannot afford to rent their own instruments, as well as a bevy of reeds, strings, and new instructional books to strengthen the program’s supplies as it enters the new school year. While all of our endeavors at the Elville Center are worthwhile and special in their own way, it is always gratifying to help a school begin its program from the ground up and watch it grow over the years, as is the case with Monarch Annapolis.
“Monarch Annapolis is a Title I charter school in Annapolis, Maryland. There is a lot of interest in instrumental music, but not enough instruments to loan to students, or supplies to support our program,” noted Ms. Brimhall. “Most of our instruments and supplies are made through donations. Instrumental music provides a hands-on arts experience. It is the bridge between many other subject areas, such as math and reading. In instrumental music, students learn to create sound and music while finding other connections to the world and their own lives. For some, it is a creative gap that is filled for thirty minutes. For all, it is the unique experience of working as both an individual participant and a team player. I am extremely thankful for the support provided by the Elville Center for the Creative Arts. Your donations of supplies and instruments is truly appreciated!”
In an important new initiative this past spring, the Elville Center became a Supporter of the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society, an organization that brings the world’s most-renowned classical guitarists to Baltimore for concerts on a recurring basis. In 2018, The Society began offering a “Guitars for Change” program for immigrant children who have encountered adverse experiences. The Society collaborates with Center of Help to offer free guitar lessons to youth at risk for gang induction in an after-school program. The Elville Center has provided 15 guitars to the “Guitars for Change” program thus far, and due to the growth and needs of the program we are continually working to provide guitar donations to this worthwhile endeavor. If you or anyone you know has a guitar in good condition to donate to the Elville Center, please contact me and know it will go to one of many good causes we support in need of guitars, including “Guitars for Change.”
As Elville and Associates’ reach has extended into Montgomery County on a continuing basis, so too has the Elville Center’s, as donors learn about the charity and refer Montgomery County School music teachers to us that would benefit from a partnership. One such school is Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring. This school’s instrumental music teacher, Mr. Daniel Puckett, is also a professional musician who has played in world-famous venues, and brings a contagious energy to his classroom and student musicians. However, as is the case with most music programs we visit, due to a lack of funds, instruments and equipment are lacking for many of his students. Over two visits, the Elville Center was able to outfit Mr. Puckett’s program with five violins, two cellos, another cello case, a terrific Kay bass (a first-of-its-kind donated stringed instrument to the charity), along with a much-needed Peavey Keyboard Amplifier the program has needed for many months. And, as we write this article we are preparing to deliver two more violins, a cello, and some brass instruments to Mr. Puckett for the new school year!
“Over the past two years the Elville Center for the Creative Arts has been a blessing to me and my students at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring,” noted Mr. Puckett. “Many of my students can’t afford an instrument to use and to be able to give a student an instrument and see their face light up with excitement is priceless! The Elville Center has also been able to purchase an amp for my keyboard and I use this every day! I am so grateful to Steve Elville, Jeff Stauffer and the entire Elville Center for the Creative Arts program! Thank you so much!”
For a third consecutive season, the Elville Center will be continuing its support as a major sponsor of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, a professional orchestra in Annapolis based in the historic Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Last year, the Center’s sponsorship paid for the bus transportation and tickets for 625 children, all from Title 1 schools, to attend the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Concerts for Schoolchildren. Continuing our funding for this ASO’s educational initiative is our largest and arguably most important venture of the year, as it positively affects so many underprivileged students and directly fulfills our mission to give children the opportunity to experience cultural events related to music they never would have experienced otherwise. The Elville Center is also proud to note it will also be recognized as an in-kind donor to the ASO for the upcoming season as well an organization that provides opportunities to those less fortunate in the communities we serve and shares in our commitment to education. To learn more about the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, visit annapolissymphony.org
“Once again it is my privilege to offer the sincerest thanks of the Annapolis Symphony for the Elville Center’s continuing commitment to our School Concert Access program,” remarked Dr. Patrick Nugent, Executive Director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. “Music Director Jose-Luis Novo and our board chair, Jane Casey, join me and all the musicians of the Annapolis Symphony in expressing our deep gratitude for your gift to help make these concerts a reality. The concerts took place in May, but they were all sold out by New Year’s! There is clearly a demand for these concerts on the part of schools and teachers, and your contribution makes it possible for us to include schools and families that don’t have the resources to afford these concerts. THANK YOU for being such thoughtful philanthropic and cultural leaders!”
On infrequent occasions, the Elville Center will send an instrument out for refurbishment, and it will come back 1) unable to be repaired due to the instrument’s condition or 2) the cost of the repair far exceeds the cost of purchasing a new instrument. In these cases, what does the Elville Center do with such instruments? We would not simply discard them! Rather, with the donor’s permission, they are donated to art teachers and transformed into art projects! And, the Elville Center is pleased that all instruments from our thoughtful donors find good homes and are put to very good use! The Elville Center works to put the “creative” in “creative arts”! One of those schools that is benefitting from the instruments set aside for still-life art design is Charles Carroll Middle School in Prince George’s County.
“Thank you so much to the Elville Center for its generosity and support for my students,” said, Ms. Rachel Held, art teacher at Charles Carroll. “Students in art class will use these instruments to practice observation, choice-making, drawing, shading, imagination, and design. Now that we have a variety of complex and engaging objects to choose from, we will start by setting up a large, multi-sided still-life. Students will makes choices about how to draw the subjects in composition, media, and style. Thank you for making a difference in my classroom this school year!”
Lastly, in a new endeavor that is expanding our reach to adults with disabilities, this September the Elville Center established a partnership with CALMRA, Inc., a community-based residential service provider in Laurel which provides homes and services to adults with cognitive disabilities. One of the many programs CALMRA offers is a Day Program through its Mary Solko Senior Center. The Day Program services include on-site nursing, hot lunches, art therapy, sensory stimulation, physical therapy, and music therapy to its seniors. The Elville Center was approached by its Day Program Director, Ms. Susan Thompson, about providing gently-used instruments to the Senior Center to benefit the music-related activities taking place there, and its first donation included two saxophones, two clarinets, two banjos and a guitar to supplement its music therapy program.
While adults with disabilities are not a population the Elville Center have assisted in the past, we have actively been considering expanding to “Make a Musical Difference in the Lives of ALL” those less fortunate that are interested in partnering with us, including veterans’ organizations, first responder groups, and special needs organizations. Knowing the depth of services and how important CALMRA is to the disabled senior community, the Elville Center is very pleased to be supporting its music therapy program and making it its first non-child centric partner.
The Elville Center needs your support and to further its important work and help make these projects successful and ongoing. Every one of the instruments provided to the schools above were instruments the Elville Center received from donors that were then paid for by the Center to be refurbished. We need those instruments that you don’t use anymore and are taking up space. We need your monetary support to help refurbish those instruments, obtain supplies and new instruments, and facilitate cultural learning experiences such as the ASO Concerts for Schoolchildren Series. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, all donations made to the Elville Center are tax-deductible. To donate or learn more about the Elville Center for the Creative Arts, please visit www.elvillecenter.org or, contact Jeffrey Stauffer at [email protected] or 443-676-9691. The Elville Center depends on donors like you to fulfill our mission and make our vision of “Making a Musical Difference in the Lives of Children” a reality. We appreciate and value your support!