By John Burton
RED BANK – The chance to again hear the music of young violinists and cellists coming from the district public schools is becoming more likely.
The public school district’s musical strings program is moving closer to coming back to the district schools, said officials and others working on returning the program.
“The cool thing is that money is still coming in,” said Borough Councilman Edward Zipprich who serves as vice president of the Red Bank Education Foundation.
A group of parents, residents and educators have been fundraising to reinstate the musical instruction program in the district’s primary and middle schools that was cut due to budgetary issues.
During the past three weeks, they have raised about $3,000, according to parent Cathy Costa.
“We’re definitely in a good position,” she said.
The group has been working to raise the $10,000 that Superintendent of Schools Jared Rumage said is needed to hire a part-time instructor to bring the program back to the district – on a limited basis for now.
This spring, the board of education cut funding for the 2014-15 school year for the nearly decade-old in-school program that offered students from pre-kindergarten to the eighth grade the opportunity to learn to play stringed instruments and perform at district and borough events.
The program initially was established with a $100,000 anonymous donation and an $8,000 donation from the now defunct Red Bank Education Initiative. School officials said it would cost approximately $85,000 annually to reinstate the program as an in-school educational program. The funds would be used to cover a teacher’s salary, benefits plus pay for supplies and maintenance of the instruments.
Officials and parents hope to have a strings program operate for about six hours a week as a before- or after-school program, with the ultimate goal to bring it back to its original structure for the 2015-16 school year.
Rumage said the district has begun advertising for a part-time instructor for the program. “It’s looking good” for the coming school year, he said. “I think everybody will be happy in the end.”
“A lot of us in the borough are excited to see this happening,” Zipprich added.
The board of education has been very supportive of the efforts to bring this back, Costa said, with the board “looking to help anyway they can.”
Board President Ben Forest said he was “thrilled with the success to date. We’re going to have a good program and we’re working to make it an even better program in the future.”
As to the efforts by the group so far, Forest said, “I’m honored to be part of a community that would not allow a strings program to not be part of our schools.”
The group is continuing to solicit contributions through a number of ways. The public can make donations by linking to a PayPal account accompanying a YouTube video entitled “Keep The Music Alive,” showing students performing and explaining the program’s importance; by mailing checks to the Red Bank Education Foundation, 76 Branch Ave. Red Bank, NJ, 07701; or by texting “strings” at 40691.
Some of the students are scheduled to perform from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, on the main stage at the Red Bank Street Fair and again at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, as part of the parks and recreation department’s Count Basie 365 Concert Series at the borough pocket park at the corner of Drs. James Parker Boulevard and Shrewsbury Avenue.