Donation music to Zebulon Elementary students', teachers' ears

amoody@newsobserver.comDecember 19, 2012 

— The curtain was pulled away like wrapping paper. Waiting on the stage on the other side were a dozen brand new, shining gifts that Zebulon Elementary School band and orchestra students weren’t expecting.

After performances by the school’s two instrumental groups Wednesday afternoon, representatives of Fidelity Investments surprised the music students with a donation to the tune of $20,000 worth of musical instruments.

“We like to find schools that support their music programs and help out any way we can,” Rob Merdes, vice president of Fidelity’s new center in Raleigh, told the crowd of parents, students and teachers before the curtain behind him was drawn and the instruments revealed.

The new instruments the Zebulon programs received included four violins, two string basses, two cellos, a flute, a tenor saxophone, a clarinet and a bass clarinet.

Fidelity provided the money, and The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, through a grant process, identified Zebulon Elementary as a prime candidate for the donation and helped determine what instruments the school needed.

The two organizations have worked together for several years to identify and assist schools whose music programs could use extra support. Zebulon met the criteria for the donation because it has a high percentage of children from low-income families and an established music program with great music teachers and strong support from school administrators, according to Fidelity spokesperson Michelle Tessier.

“Zebulon fit the bill,” Tessier said. “From what the teachers have told us, some of their instruments are 30 to 40 years old, and worn with time and use.

“Between that and a growing number of kids who want to join the orchestra and band programs, they will definitely be putting the new instruments to good use immediately.”

Zebulon Elementary orchestra instructor Nelle Keeley, who with band instructor Karen Barnhardt sought the foundation grant, said she was floored when she learned about two weeks ago the school would receive the donation .

Keeley said there are students at the school who have wanted to take band or orchestra as an elective class, but have not been able to because of a limited number of available instruments.

“We do our best to provide an instrument for each child, but can’t always, and there’s some that just can’t afford an instrument,” said Keeley, who has taught strings at the school since 1999. “This offers more students the opportunity to take these classes.”

For some students, such as fourth-grader Kordasia Rogers, the donation presented an opportunity to try something different. The school didn’t have a bass clarinet until Wednesday, when Kordasia played one for the first time and had a hard time letting the instrument go.

“I loved it,” she said. “It’s a strong, deep voice. I’ve been playing a clarinet, but now I want to play this.

“I’m very lucky to get to play this for the rest of the year.”

Moody: 919-829-4806

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