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April 4, 2006 > A telethon for music

A telethon for music

by Praveena and Venkat Raman

Fremont Education Foundation (FEF), a non-profit organization that raises funds with the help of the community to support enrichment programs in Fremont schools, will hold its annual telethon from April 4 to April 6, at 7 to 9 p.m. This event will be televised on the education channel EDTV cable 26.

FEF's telethon raises funds to continue the beginning, intermediate and the newly started advanced band program in elementary schools. The very first telethon was held in 2000 to start the enriching after school band program in all elementary schools in Fremont. Prior to 1991 the Fremont Unified School District had a band program taught during the school day by the teachers. With the budget cuts in 1991 the band program was terminated and there was no instrumental music in the schools. In a few of the elementary schools vocal music was taught with the help of special education teachers and students who could afford to take private lessons to learn an instrument did so. For the majority of the interested students they had to wait until junior high for a chance to be in the band and that also depended on whether they got the elective subject of choice. In 2000 some of the FEF board members decided that it was high time the band program was reintroduced in the elementary schools to benefit all children. With the help of the community they raised $90,000 through the first telethon, enough to start the beginning and intermediate band programs in elementary schools.

In the ensuing years the band program steadily expanded in schools with funds raised through successive telethons. Currently all the schools have beginning and intermediate band programs with Forest Park having an advanced program as well. Due to insufficient funds raised through past telethons the length of the program had to be cut back with the course ending in April instead of having instructions until June. The course is tuition free for the students but they have to buy or rent their instruments. The Foundation also makes sure that students with financial hardship are given loaner instruments making sure that all students can equally participate.

"This year our goal is to raise $106,000 to continue the program in all the schools," says Lara York, FEF board member. "However we would need to raise much more to expand the advance level program in other schools and also have some money to provide additional training to our teachers." The FUSD administers the program including hiring teachers. The impact of the program on students is already seen at the higher levels. Both junior high and high school teachers are very pleased with the advanced level of the students coming into the band program from elementary schools.

This year's telethon will feature local celebrities including, Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman, City Council members Dominic Dutra and Anu Natarajan, Fremont Chamber of Commerce representatives KK Kaneshiro, Barbara Jenkins, Rick Geha and School Board members Ivy Wu, Larry Sweeney, Peggy Herndon, Nina More, and Bryan Gebhardt and a host of other local supporters.

The telethon will also showcase the musical talents of children currently enrolled in the program. Performing live on television for the first time, student bands from Brier, Harvey Green, and Parkmont elementary schools will actively demonstrate the value of the After-School Band Program. Other musical entertainment will include Evolution Eden, an adult band featuring Brier teachers, Horner Sax Ensemble led by Irvington High senior, Mike Pride, The East Bay Jazzinators led by John Soulis, and other current and former after-school band students.

The telethon will be managed from three phone bank locations around Fremont. Each night more than 50 volunteers will reach out to the community for donations and pledges of support. Volunteers with good verbal communication skills in English, Spanish, Mandarin and other languages are needed. High school students can earn community service hours by volunteering. The music telethon is sponsored by a variety of businesses in the area. Additional sponsorship is always welcome and you can contact Lara York at (510) 501-9675 for more information.

For information about the After School Band Program and how to contribute or participate, visit the FEF website at Donations can be made by credit card through the website or by check, payable to the Fremont Education Foundation, and sent to FEF Music Telethon, PO Box 14415, Fremont, CA 94539-1115. Please write "band" on the memo line.

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