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By: Jeffrey D. Stauffer, Executive Director of the Elville Center for the Creative Arts
In June 2018, the Elville Center for the Creative Arts celebrated its four-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.
The projects and programs the Elville Center for the Creative Arts have partnered with over the past four years are all very unique and based all over the state – Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, Howard County – but the one common thread between all of them is their leaders’ desire to improve their programs for the benefit of their students, to give them the best environment possible to learn, grow and be fulfilled in their musical journeys. And, that is where the Elville Center comes in, as our vision is to “Make a Musical Difference in the Lives of Children” every day. Over the Elville Center’s four-year musical journey, we have been fortunate to collaborate with some amazing teachers, schools, and businesses, and we’ve given musical opportunities to thousands of students along the way!
Since our winter update, the Elville Center forged a new partnership with Instrumental Music Teacher Lauren Ward and her programs at Carole Highlands Elementary and Mary Harris Mother Jones Elementary in Prince George’s County. Ms. Ward, who serves as the band and orchestra leader for grades four to six at both schools, approached the Elville Center after hearing about the charity from a teacher at Benjamin Tasker Middle School, the Elville Center’s first school partner over four years ago.
During our initial meeting with Ms. Ward, we were shocked to learn she had to turn away more than 40 students from her music programs last year due to a scarcity of instruments, with violin being the direst need. This, unfortunately, is an all too common theme the Elville Center hears when meeting with music teachers to learn about their programs. And, for every school the Elville Center meets, there are 25 others we don’t meet that have the same challenges.
Hearing this situation was simply unacceptable to the Elville Center, and we immediately offered our support to Ms. Ward and her music programs. In May, the Elville Center delivered six violins with new bows and cases to benefit the programs, along with much-needed supplies in rosin and valve oils. In August, with the assistance of our fine business partner, the Music & Arts Center in Severna Park, the Elville Center was able to deliver an additional six violins with new bows and cases, to the schools. The Elville Center will continue to provide support to Ms. Ward’s programs, providing as many violins as possible on an ongoing basis.
QUOTE FROM LAUREN WARD
QUOTE FROM LAUREN WARD
The need for support in Baltimore City’s school music programs proves to be an ongoing challenge that as a whole may not change anytime soon; however, this is all the more reason the Elville Center has continued to reach out to our partner schools in the city to help them with their needs so their students can develop their talents in positive environments they seek. The Elville Center has found music teachers in the city to be incredibly hard working and passionate about their programs, and no program exemplifies this more than Coppin Academy High School and its leader, Master Teacher of Music Education Jesse Williamson. Since our winter update, our partnership with the program has continued to expand and thrive, as Mr. Williamson has gratefully accepted our offers to provide support for his program. Over the winter and spring semesters and summer months, the Elville Center repaired 15 of the program’s musical instruments and donated two keyboards, a guitar, an alto saxophone, a flute, a ukulele, a euphonium and numerous music books. Additional instrument repairs are ongoing with our terrific small business partner, The Band Shoppe in Catonsville, for the fall semester.
Another challenge Coppin Academy faced was, due to the high cost of new sheet music and music books, the program was forced to recycle the same music year after year and did not have enough music books for all of its students. With the help of the Elville Center that will not be the case this year, as 50 new Sound Innovations for Concert Band music books were purchased for the program in time for the fall semester. Enough books were purchased for all 20 unique instruments in the band, which will allow for plenty of new instruction, practice and performance opportunities for all of the band’s students.
Lastly at Coppin Academy, Mr. Williamson initiated a Donors Choose project to garner donations for the purchase of a “big bottom tuba” for his program. Having a tuba in a band allows for a deep, rich sound, and the Academy is also interested in starting a marching band, which a tuba would add a great deal to as well. In August, the Elville Center donated $250 towards the project’s goal in hopes of “adding some bottom” to the band. If you would like to learn more or donate to “The Big Bottom Tuba Project,” please visit https://www.donorschoose.org/project/the-big-bottom-tuba-project/3352226/
“This year, 2018, we had 100% of our senior graduates go on to college, careers, or the military. We strive to teach our students that regardless of what zip code they hail from, they can go on do to great things,” said Mr. Williamson. “Many of my students have not had the opportunity to participate in a quality band program before high school, but they are making the most of the opportunity they now have with me. It is my hope that they will develop teamwork skills, self-confidence, and discipline by learning to be part of an ensemble. Thank you so much to Stephen Elville and the Elville Center for the Creative Arts. You have done so much to support the Coppin Academy music program. We can’t thank you enough!”
Another Baltimore City school music program the Elville Center continues to provide assistance to for a second consecutive year is Franklin Square Middle. Under the direction of Instrumental Music Teacher Marcus Neal, due to a lack of financial support this program’s primary challenges are a severe lack of the basic music supplies and one instrument to go around for every two students. The Elville Center stepped in during the spring semester to provide much-needed reeds for its instruments, valve and slide oils, six new sturdy music stands along with two trumpets and two trombones.
As we discussed in our winter update, in what remains the Elville Center’s most significant project thus far, the Center will be continuing its status as a major sponsor of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, a professional orchestra next to the state’s capitol based in the historic Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, this coming season. The Center will continue to pay for the bus transportation and tickets for hundreds of children, many from Title 1 schools, to attend the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Concerts for Schoolchildren series. It is the Elville Center’s goal this upcoming season to increase its funding to the ASO’s Concerts for Schoolchildren series so we may positively affect more students and continue to fulfill our mission to give children the opportunity to experience cultural events related to music they never would have experienced without some outside support. We can think of no finer partner to help us fulfill our mission than the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, 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
“For twenty years, the Annapolis Symphony’s Concerts for Schoolchildren were accessible only to schools that had sufficient funding for tickets and transportation. The concerts were out of reach for many schools in lower-income communities. This past season, the Elville Center led the way in changing this,” remarked Dr. Patrick Nugent, Executive Director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. “Their generosity enabled over 600 second-graders from Title I schools to enjoy these concerts and have their first exposure to classical music, in a setting designed specifically for them. The Elville Center funded transportation as well as the cost of admission. As a result, and with the joyful collaboration of other donors, 25% of students at this year’s Peter and the Wolf concerts with the Magic Circle Mime Company were from schools in low-income communities that could not otherwise afford the concerts.”
In an exciting new development with the Elville Center’s longtime school music partner, Dr. Maximus VanDerbeek and Wiley H. Bates Middle School in Annapolis, Dr. VanDerbeek visited the Elville Creative Studio in March for an interview with the Elville Center’s Executive Director, Jeffrey Stauffer. The interview highlighted the relationship between the Elville Center and Bates Middle, and also showcased Dr. VanDerbeek’s broad knowledge of music education and his thoughts about the current challenges schools are facing with music education. The discussion was also a platform to show all of the positive initiatives taking place at Bates Middle along with some of Dr. VanDerbeek’s background that has helped him change Bates Middle into the transformational Performing Visual Arts music program it is today. The interview is available to view on both the Elville Center’s YouTube page and website, and this is the first of many such projects the Elville Center will be developing in the months to come.
After March’s interview, Dr. Vanderbeek approached the Elville Center and the Studio’s Manager, Audiovisual Specialist Lucille Elville, about a special project he wished to embark on to recognize the band’s 8th-graders who were moving on to play music in high school. The project, titled the “Wiley H. Bates Middle School Capstone Videos,” captured clips of the 8th-graders in outdoor settings playing improvisational music with their instruments along with the students sharing their thoughts about what it meant to be members of the Bates Middle music program, as well as what their future plans were for music in their lives. The final piece was a moving video montage that showed what talented, special students “Dr. V” has at Bates and how much they care about their school, teachers and families that helped them grow into the fine young men and women they are today.
Needless to say, the Elville Center’s support of the Bates music program continues in earnest. Over the past several months, the Center has continued its monthly monetary student teacher support for the program and provided Bates with a number of instruments and music supply deliveries, including two trumpets, a snare drum, a keyboard, four clarinets, a flute, a beautiful soprano saxophone, as well as numerous reed packages, valve and slide oils.
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 to be refurbished by the Center. 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 SchoolChildren Series. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, all donations made to the Elville Center are tax-deductible.
After the Elville Center’s most recent Board Meeting, planning and preparation has begun for the charity’s first annual fundraiser, scheduled for Saturday, April 20th, 2019, from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Oakland Manor in Columbia. Set in the over 200-year old historic mansion, the fundraiser will be highlighted by delicious food, live entertainment, a silent auction, and guests whose lives have been impacted by the Elville Center. If you or your business are interested in donating an item for the silent auction or becoming a sponsor for the fundraiser, please contact Jeffrey Stauffer, Executive Director, at 443-393-7696, or [email protected] More information about the fundraiser will be forthcoming soon!
To donate or learn more about the Elville Center for the Creative Arts, please visit www.elvillecenter.org, or contact Jeffrey Stauffer. 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 your support!