Reflection #9 – Making a Difference
In 2013 Sunriver Music Festival Director Pam Beezley and La Pine Middle School Principal Jim Boen agreed upon the need to restore the band program as a way to expand meaningful music options for La Pine students. They applied for an Oregon Community Foundation Studio to Schools grant and in Spring, 2014, SRMF/LPMS was selected as one of 18 grantees.
Thrilled, their Studio team immediately launched a search for a band teacher and found not one applicant! Michael Chavarin, choir teacher and Studio team staff representative, stepped up, offering to devote his preparation period to set up and teach a new beginning band elective. Though a talented and trained music teacher, choir was Michael’s specialty and love. But because he believed in the goal, he took on this huge challenge! Throughout his summer he worked to find and refurbish old warehoused instruments and music and purchase new ones. By opening day, he was ready to welcome a brand new class of beginning band students.
The plan worked. Band was a huge success among students and choir continued to flourish. The search for a new band instructor to take over the second year continued but, again, no applicants were found. So Michael continued to use his planning period to teach and expand band options for advancing students. The Studio grant supported him and his students by repairing existing instruments and funding new ones, purchasing chairs and music stands, and expanding the music library for band and choir. Grant monies also provided Michael to opportunity to travel, for the first time, with his band and choir students to music festivals and to expand their opportunities to perform publicly. The annual Evening of the Arts event, to which community leaders received personal invitations, was organized by Michael and supported by the Studio team.
Encouraged by OCF to explore other performing arts options, beginning Year One, the Studio team also supported a Artists-in-Residence programs for the LPMS Art teacher, and guitar, photography and drama co-curricular classes. As a team member, Michael incorporated student products and performances from these activities as part of the Evening of the Arts event. He brought selected guitar students into his band classes.
In Spring, 2016, at a baseball game, Michael began talking with Lindsey Spring, a LPHS English teacher talented and interested in drama, about the possibility of beginning an annual grade 6-12 La Pine musical. The Studio team agreed with Michael and Lindsey that producing a musical could provide an opportunity to bring music, drama, art, and photography students, staff and mentors together to create for the La Pine community an additional cultural event. With an eye towards sustainability, the Studio team also recognized that, led by existing staff members, and supported by school administration, band, choir and a musical could be continuing school performing arts pillars.
As Michael did with Band, Lindsey spent much of the summer of 2016 planning and selecting a musical. Working closely with Michael, who led the musical planning, she brought the existing LPHS drama teacher, Jeff Parker, into the team. In April of this year, The Little Mermaid was an overwhelming success, playing to audiences of 150-200 people, and making more than $5000 in ticket sales, which will be deposited into a fund to support future musicals.
As the musical took shape Michael was present every step of the way, casting students in December, attending every rehearsal, buying equipment, working with technicians on microphones and sound, directing each song, and assisting drama and set directors Lindsey and Jeff with every challenge.
This spring, Michael received notice that local leaders of arts nonprofit organization granted his choir a $15,000 grant to purchase choir robes for students. Noticing that the La Pine choir students had to perform at Festival in T-shirts, they wanted to remedy that problem.
Studio to Schools OCF and project team members have worked together during these first three grant years to develop a series of principles that characterize high quality performing arts programs. While it is true that every member of the Sunriver/La Pine Studio team has been essential in ensuring the depth and breadth of the success of the grant for La Pine students so far, it is also true that without Michael Chavarin’s participation, choices, talent and dedication, our programs would not be in the place we are today.
Michael was present and active from the beginning through the present in working with SRMF and LPMS administration to create a shared vision for arts education programming through an inclusive and ongoing planning process (Principle 1) and by assisting in developing mutual commitment and responsibility between arts organizations and schools (Principle 2). By supporting and encouraging others to support and expand art, drama, photography, dance quality and opportunities within and outside school, Michael honors the diverse perspectives, experiences, and contributions of all involved – students, staff and community (Principle 3) and he has assisted in engaging experienced and skilled teaching artists and arts educators (Principle 4). By working tirelessly to build and to engage and meaningfully involve his students in band and choir classes and in the musical, Michael needed to understand and respond equitably to community strengths, histories and needs (Principle 5), to provide varied, relevant and high quality opportunities for students to engage in arts learning (Principle 6), and to cultivate a school environment so that arts learning can thrive (Principle 7). By dedicating himself to work with others to establish the band program, continue the choir program, and produce the first annual musical this year, and to involve his students in regional festivals, the support and notice these programs have generated has built appreciation and support for arts education in schools and communities (Principle 8).
As part of regular Studio meetings, members of the entire Sunriver/La Pine Studio team considered options for writing Reflection #9 but the final decision to focus on Michael Chavarin’s central role was made by Project Lead Pam Beezley and Project Director/Evaluation Liason Gayle Vidal.