By Julianne Homokay – Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
“Watching you all react to hearing my students play? This is why I do it,” said Kari Stebbing, Music Director of the Rim of the World High School Music Program, speaking to the enthusiastic audience at Blue Jay Jazz Foundation’s fundraiser “Give To The Music.” This event was held at the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa on Sunday, April 23, to benefit Rim District school bands.
Patrons entered the Resort lobby to find a Rim High combo filling the space with jazz standards. Also on hand was an instrument “petting zoo” stocked with an array of reed, brass and string instruments that kids of any age could try out. Said Chris Levister, President of the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation, “This is a hybrid of something we’ve done for a number of years. This used to be separate from the fundraiser.” But she observed that kids were leaning on parents to want to try instruments, so the “petting zoo” became a way for kids to give it a go and for parents to ask questions. This is the first year the Foundation has incorporated the element, also known as “Meet An Instrument,” into the fundraiser.
In doing so, Levister hopes to raise awareness as to the importance of music programs in the public schools. “Music can’t compete with sports,” she says. And even within the music world, “jazz is a harder sell.” This is why Levister doesn’t want to see any student sitting on the sidelines because they can’t afford to rent an instrument. Blue Jay Jazz Foundation provides a bank of instruments that they can provide on loan to students who want to explore learning to play one.
When the formal performance began in one of the Resort’s conference rooms, which was decked out festively with strings of twinkling lights, magic was in the air. The student band did not disappoint. They cycled through many styles of music, with Stebbing herself grabbing her alto saxophone to sit in. And given that five of the students are winners of the Foundation’s scholarships, the quality of the music was the highlight of the event.
During a break when Levister was inhabiting her best auctioneer persona, hand after hand went up in the audience pledging donations to the Rim High music programs. The pledges came in at over three thousand dollars.
Of course, the money is important to be able to sustain the music programs. But more importantly, Stebbing is providing a place for her students to belong. Jaden Martinez, tenor saxophone, said it best: “I feel like I have a family away from home.”
And he always will. Says Levister, “Music is a universal language we can all understand.”
To donate, make a check out for any amount addressed to Rim of the World High School with the memo line specifying “ASB Jazz Band”, P.O. Box 430, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352-0430, or contact Kari Stebbing, [email protected].