FAIRFIELD — It’s a gift that has teachers throughout Solano County singing and playing a happy tune these days.
For the past four years, Vacaville residents Donald and Rose Marie Wong have given musical grants through a permanently endowed fund at the Solano Community Foundation to various teachers in the area.
It’s filled a void as school districts lost funding, pushing the arts by the wayside. This year, 12 music teachers were the recipients of grants totaling $20,800, some even receiving more than their grant application requested.
“They really wanted to make sure music doesn’t die in the schools, which it kind of has in some areas,” said Stephanie Wolf, chief executive officer for the foundation.
For Laura DeKloe, a second- and third-grade combined teacher at Crescent Elementary School, the $1,000 grant she received will enable her to bring back music to a school that has been struggling to hang on to the arts in bits and pieces with volunteers, and DeKloe’s efforts with a holiday music program the past couple of years.
“I did that with a few classes,” she said of the program. “We just sang and used (a) rhythm instrument.”
Soon she can add recorders and sheet music. Her grant request was for the simple musical instruments to get the children started with music. She’s just received the check and is in the process of ordering about 165 recorders and accompanying music.
While the number won’t be enough for all children to use a recorder at the same time, DeKloe said they can rotate through the school five classes at a time.
DeKloe received more than she requested in her grant application, and with the extra she hopes to add some rhythm instruments so they can “address the younger students.”
She said she was hesitant to apply at first because of the usual paperwork entanglement and the difficulty in writing a grant, but said she was surprised about how easy the process was.
Kristen Goree, director of the vocal ensemble at Buckingham Charter Magnet High School, was leery about applying, too, but for a different reason. She applied last year and received a grant. She didn’t think she’d get one this year but she applied again. She said she was surprised to not only be successful, but received $2,800, which was $1,800 more than the requested amount.
“I was in shock,” she said. “I was floored. I was speechless. I’m still speechless.”
Goree’s vocal ensemble runs shy of just 50 students and they do three concerts a year with a wide variety of music. When she arrived at Buckingham a couple of years ago, she said she was surprised to find no choir music. Goree said the music costs around $2 apiece and copyright laws allow for only one copy per original.
Goree said the grant money will pay for sheet music for the upcoming year. She said that Buckingham and its parent group have always been supportive with the program and applying for the grants was her way of helping with the costs.
“I kind of wanted to give back a little with the grant money,” she said.
Now, instead of purchasing sheet music for the students, the school’s money can go somewhere else.
“We all have wish lists a mile long,” she said. “This grant will make a huge difference.”
That’s the point: To make a difference.
Wolf said the Wongs declined to do interviews, but said their love of music and concern that school music programs were disappearing spurred their desire to form a permanent endowment. The grants are crafted in the same way as the foundation’s Ed Plus! Mini-Grant Program.
The criteria states that the money must be used for such things as musical instruments, sheet music, uniforms and accessories.
“If we did not make these grants, teachers would have to reach into their own pockets to make it work and they can’t do that,” Wolf said.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.