Music education in public schools has been a topic of contention for the past two decades. However, that has not been the case on Orcas Island.
The Music Advocacy Group was created more than 20 years ago to preserve the musical education of Orcas students.
At 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 5 at the Old Gym, 100 Orcas musicians, young and old, will gather to perform at MAG’s 20th annual benefit concert.
Just like the previous 19 years, the concert will feature the Orcas Community Band, the Island Sinfonia, the Orcas Choral Society and the high school string ensemble. Admission is by donation and all proceeds go toward funding the needs of the public school music program.
“The Music Advocacy Group has transformed music education for generations of Orcas Island children,” said Hilary Canty, last year’s master of ceremonies at the annual concert. “Thanks to MAG, all students have the opportunity to make their hearts sing and their minds soar. What a gift for a lifetime.”
MAG’s first annual concert was meant to be a one-off in honor of retiring music teacher Wally Gudgell, Sr. in 1997. That same year, Marilyn Anderson gave MAG $10,000 to develop guidelines and goals for music education for island students.
“Music education kind of came and went,” said MAG President and founding member Catherine Pederson. “It wasn’t a regular part of the school curriculum until Pamela Wright came along.”
Currently, Wright is the strings director and Darren Dix is the music and band teacher. Every year, students travel to regional competitions and earn top honors for both solo performances and group ensembles.
“I just believed that every child should have an opportunity to experience music,” said Pederson, who along with co-founding MAG, began the Orcas Choral Society. “It’s really quite wonderful.”
She describes the annual concert as the “last of the old-time Orcas community.”
MAG has an annual goal of raising $10,000 toward funding public school music education.
“Our school music program is one that this community is proud of,” said MAG Board Member Jan Ehrlichman. “I think a large part of why it’s so successful is because it has had the backing of MAG.”
The MAG board looks forward to this year’s concert and is confident that MAG will continue to grow and be a driving force for music education on Orcas Island.
“It’s really encouraging to know that my kids will have music in the classroom and that it’s a stable thing,” said MAG Board Member Sharon Ho. “I think it’s very important for kids growing up here to have connections with that larger world of music.”