$10,000 grant to expand high school’s music tech lab

September 22, 2009

By Christopher Huber

Skyline High School PTSA members present a $10,000 check to Skyline principal Lisa Hechtman during halftime at the Skyline-Oaks Christian football game Sept. 18. Photo by Christopher Huber. Contributed

Skyline High School PTSA members present a $10,000 check to Skyline principal Lisa Hechtman during halftime at the Skyline-Oaks Christian football game Sept. 18. Photo by Christopher Huber. Contributed

Skyline High School senior James Nielsen plays and sings in nearly every music group at the school. He plays euphonium in the concert band, trombone in the jazz band and sousaphone in the pep band. He even sings in the concert choir.

But what he seems most excited about this school year is what he and his classmates will be able to play during piano lab class.

Obviously, they will learn keyboarding skills, such as writing tunes with music software or practicing a new playing style. But the excitement comes from the prospect of doubling the size of the lab and upgrading outdated software. Until the school receives its new equipment this fall, only 10 students of the 25-student class are able to play a keyboard at a time.

“Half of the time, half of the class is not able to participate,” Nielsen said. “The software we have now works, but it’s antique.”The Skyline PTSA recently granted the school’s fine arts program $10,000 to expand its music technology lab. The money will help school officials purchase 10 new keyboard pianos and accompanying software.

“These dollars will touch everybody across the school,” said PTSA co-president Caroline Brown.

She said the thinking behind the grant was that since students must complete some fine arts credits to graduate, the school needs to provide ample curriculum opportunities despite lacking state funding.

The PTSA has worked with Principal Lisa Hechtman to create room in the master schedule for three new entry-level class periods, said PTSA co-president Heather Gillette.

“It’s just one of those things that the timing just worked out and that it presented itself,” Gillette said.

Skyline choir teacher Nancy Ziebart, who worked with Hechtman and the PTSA to direct the funds, said the grant opens up more opportunity to students who may not have taken music to fulfill fine arts credits.

“My excitement is that we will then be able to add a piano class here,” Ziebart said.

Skyline currently offers classes in concert band, jazz band, concert choir, vocal jazz, Skyline Symphony, IB music study, music technology, movies and music, and guitar.

“This allows for students who maybe aren’t involved in the arts already to find a niche,” Ziebart said.

Nielsen said students often have trouble with software-keyboard compatibility, thus creating problems during class. He said the new software and equipment will streamline the music recording and writing process.

“It’s making it more accessible to a ‘now’ situation and to everyone all the time,” he said. “It will make everything easier. It makes life so much simpler. What we’ve got now, it works, it’ll do, but the efficiency aspect, we can get twice as much stuff done.”

All of the money raised for the grant came from the PTSA’s Pass the Hat donation drive from fall PTSA sign-up time, Brown said.

The PTSA awarded the Skyline science department an $8,500 grant in 2008.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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