One hundred musicians – 0ne great cause

Submitted by Sharon Ho.

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 1, in the high school gym, voices and music rising to crescendo would surely be a welcome respite from February’s steady beat of raindrops on our rooftops. In an Orcas music tradition started over two decades ago, the Music Advocacy Group will present the 23rd School Music Benefit Concert, as both a gesture of gratitude to the community and an invitation to herald a fresh season of music-making.

All are invited for an afternoon of song and instrumental music featuring student string and band groups; Orcas Choral Society; Island Sinfonia; and Orcas Island Community Band. “100 Musicians! 1 Great Cause!” is MAG’s main fundraiser to benefit the music program that serves K-12 grades in the Orcas Island School District.

This year, Anita Orne, executive director of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, will be Master of Ceremonies. Composer and all-round music virtuoso Martin Lund will be speaking at the concert.

“The MAG concert is a local gem that brings together our oldest and youngest musicians under the same roof—the school gym,” said Miriam Ziegler, MAG president, who is also a member of the Choral Society. “The kids in school who are just learning their instruments are watching adults around them lead by example. Whatever kind of music you may prefer, and however your tastes change through life, we can agree that learning music is a lifelong skill.”

Concert preparations began months ago and the community groups have been rehearsing weekly. Many people volunteer their time behind the scenes with MAG to get the sound, lights, stages, seating and post-concert reception ready for an audience of about 300 people.

Donations from this important benefit go towards MAG’s general school music fund that provides up to half the school’s budget for music program needs today. Sustaining a quality program means that a wide variety of needs have to be met, from the purchase of music scores, equipment and instruments to the often daunting costs of transportation to send groups of students to meaningful musical opportunities on the mainland. One example is the third through fifth grade trip to sing and play with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall, a trip that has become a sort of elementary school rite of passage.

This 2019-20 school year, MAG made significant contributions to the program that more than doubled its budgeted annual support of $9,000-$10,000. MAG responded to the need for safe and proper storage of the school’s growing library of music and purchased a customized filing system that replaced over a dozen cumbersome filing cabinets. And, with an eye towards expanding access to online music resources for more effective teaching and student practice, MAG fully funded the purchase of 30 Chromebooks and a charging cart to be housed in the Music wing, by topping up the funds raised via the 2019 OICF Holiday Gift Catalog.

In January, MAG also partnered with the Choral Society to launch the Orcas Youth Chorus, an after-school offering for sixth through 12th grade youth, through the Park and Recreation District. The public school’s Music wing has been a pleasant hive of activity on wintry Monday evenings when the choir meets in the new Music/Multi-purpose room and the Community Band rehearses in the Band room.

MAG was established in the late 1990s to sustain music education as part of the curriculum for island students. As we fast forward to 2020, school music may be more necessary than ever, providing students with opportunities to learn to read music, master an instrument and engage in the arts. Despite being from a small district, Orcas student musicians consistently achieve high rankings at competitions and festivals and are invited to perform at prestigious venues. Some go on to pursue music at college. With the monthly “Music Student of the Month” awardees featured in the Islands’ Sounder, the music teachers are keen to recognize student effort. Yet the words of the students themselves speak volumes. Quotes like “Music calms me down,” “Playing music makes me feel better” and “I like the feeling of being able to work with other people” may well be the most heartwarming and important arguments for the need to provide in-school musical learning and expression.

Donations in cash, via checks or credit card are welcome at the door or at Checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 1171, Eastsound, WA 98245. MAG is a 501(c)(3) organization. Please visit for more info.

Contributed photo

Contributed photo