Issaquah Schools Foundation launches fund for arts

November 6, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

When the Skyline High School Orchestra started this year, it was short nine cellos. The arsenal for Issaquah Middle School band for years included a baritone saxophone from 1925. Instead of being in a museum, it was played until its metal decayed beyond repair.

“They’re all over the district, of course — instruments that have either been around a long time or have seen rough decades. It’s been an ongoing problem for a long time,” said Doug Longman who teaches orchestra at Skyline and Issaquah high schools. “We are not even providing all the instruments that kids are playing.”

Larger instruments — like cellos, tubas and bass clarinets — are hard for students to carry back and forth from home, where they practice, to school, where they take band or orchestra classes. They’re also expensive to rent, if they can be rented at all. To help students in their musical endeavor, the ideal solution is for those larger instruments to be provided in class. But that is easier said than done.

“The life of the tuba or the bari sax is not an easy one,” Longman said. “And it’s getting more expensive to fix them.”

How to help

Learn more about the Issaquah Schools Foundation’s arts education fund at or by calling 391-8557.

Longman and music departments in middle schools and high schools across the Issaquah School District are about to get a long overdue boost.

The Issaquah Schools Foundation is launching a $100,000-per-year dedicated fine arts fund for the district’s secondary schools.

“I think in each department — whether its fine arts or music or drama — everybody has a story about how this will benefit their program,” foundation Executive Director Robin Callahan said. “The arts cannot be overlooked. They are important for student achievement and success in school.”

The district is still hammering out some of the details and compiling a list of different needs.

Those needs, said Jerry Miller, director of instruction support curriculum, include a new theater lighting system to $500 to fix a kiln. One thing that is for sure, though, is that instruments will be in the first round of funding, which is set to happen in May.

Repairing and replacing old, large instruments has been an issue for the district for at least the last 13 years that Miller has worked there, he said.

“We had this big old tuba that was held together with duct tape, chimes held together with a coat hanger,” he said. “People have been making due and making due.”

So, last spring he worked with the music departments to put together a request for a $50,000 grant from foundation.

“They realized that $50,000 once would just be a Band-Aid,” Miller said. “We were just blown away. It’s typical of the foundation — they see a need and they really put themselves behind it. This was just beyond our wildest dreams that we could meet the needs of band and all the other arts as well.”

The original request, Callahan explained, prompted a lot of discussion among the foundation’s committee and board members about the desire to not just support band and orchestra programs, but to support all arts in schools, like vocal, dramatic, fine and visual arts.

“If we wanted to make it meaningful, then it needed to be larger than $50,000 a year,” she said. “Our goal is always to use donor dollars to create significant impact and to leverage dollars…We believe it will have a large impact because the arts are so used to doing quite a bit with not so much. They’ve been making their dollar stretch for so many years.”

The funding for the endeavor and other programs that the foundation pays for, such as after-school homework labs, comes from the organization’s two annual fundraisers, one of which is going on now.

The All in for Kids Annual Fund Campaign started in August, and concludes next week when 300 high school students will set out on a calling campaign to raise $330,000. Phones will ring Nov. 13 and 15. Families that have already donated will be taken off the call list.

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