"The Beatles Project" gives money to school music and art programs in need.
When money got tight for the music program at the Anoka Middle School for the Arts, it was the Beatles who came to the rescue.
Through a program called "The Minnesota Beatles Project," $2,000 was funneled to the school last year to help with band and orchestra needs.
Now, it's payback time. This spring, band members will record a cover of "A Hard Day's Night" that will be part of a CD of Beatles songs recorded by various Minnesota musicians for the project. Proceeds from CD sales will help school music and art programs across the state.
"It kind of came full circle," said Sabrina Olson, band director for the school's seventh- and eighth-graders.
Other school music programs are working up-tempo to deal with money problems. Many have to scrounge for instruments their schools can't afford, often for low-income students who can't pay the rental fees.
In Brooklyn Center, band director Chris Porter said that every one of her students' instruments is borrowed, donated or bought through grants. "I write a lot of grants," said Porter, head of the band programs at the Brooklyn Center junior and senior high schools. "I beg, borrow, steal ... "
She was able to borrow 40 instruments from a band director acquaintance, and the Brooklyn Center Rotary Club came up with $40,000 for the program. That's let Porter make sure every student has an instrument. But the district expanded band to sixth grade this year, and the program is expected to grow next fall, creating more need for instruments.
Hopkins is another district where music programs are feeling the pinch. "Our budgets are less, our class sizes are larger, we're working harder with less," said Sandy Merry, fine arts coordinator for Hopkins schools. "We have more and more students in our district who can't afford an instrument."
Why expand music programs if resources are so tight?
"My personal philosophy is every kid deserves a chance to participate in band," Porter said.
In the Rosemount/Apple Valley/Eagan district, officials wanted to increase band participation at Apple Valley's Cedar Park Elementary School, which has a high population of low-income minority students, few of whom were involved in music. In four years, band participation at the school has jumped from 23 students to 80, said Angela Wyatt, a music teacher at another school in the district.
All these demands mean schools are increasingly trolling for free or bargain-priced instruments or plugging into such statewide initiatives as "Play It Forward," sponsored by Classical Minnesota Public Radio, and the Beatles Project, administered by Owatonna-based Vega Productions.
At the Anoka middle school, Olson said she hopes to have the "Hard Day's Night" arrangement ready for her band to practice this month. Music technicians from McNally Smith College of Music will come to the school in April to record the band.
Mark Gehring, executive director of Vega Productions, said the recording is due for release in December in various formats (mp3, record, and CD), and will cost anywhere from $10 to $25.
Norman Draper • 612-673-4547