Six music students in the Highland Central School District were honored last Tuesday, May 26 at a presentation held in the community room at the Highland Firehouse. Each accepted a Recognition Award certificate and will receive a $100 check to be used in any way they wish to further their music education.
This was the second year for the awards given out by the Highland Music Boosters (HMB) Inc., an organization formed three years ago by a group of parents with the goal of supporting and enhancing the district’s K-12 music programs. Any student currently enrolled in school choral and/or instrumental programs, grades four through eleven, was eligible to apply, with applications reviewed anonymously.
Family members and friends of award recipients along with schools superintendent Deborah Haab applauded as HMB board members Randie Ratick, Joe Avampato, Kit Kassel, Caren Sullivan, Jessica Avampato and Stuart Weiss presented the certificates.
Recognition Awards went to fifth graders Nate Mormon, who plays euphonium — a baritone-voiced brass horn — and Marcelo Cuya, a trumpet player who said he plans to use his award to keep up with his lessons over the summer. Sixth-graders Luke Munson and Peter Bender have lessons in piano and trumpet (respectively) in mind for their $100 checks while flute player Paige Tomanocy, also in sixth grade, plans to attend a summer youth music camp sponsored by Dutchess Community College. High school junior Summer Bugbee, who portrayed Mary Poppins in Highland High School’s musical production earlier this year, said she will put her award toward the cost of attending a competitive month-long theater and music program at SUNY Fredonia this summer.
The selection committee that chose the honorees was made up of Larry Mesic, retired music educator who taught in the Highland district from 1970 to 2002; Alan Spaulding, Highland High School alum and recent graduate of the Boston Conservatory; and Kit Cowan, a music educator in the Arlington Central School District. All three were acknowledged at the awards presentation with certificates of appreciation.
The Highland Music Boosters (HMB) undertake a number of fundraising efforts throughout the year to fund the Recognition Awards as well as to help defray the costs of extracurricular enrichment activities for the students, including master classes, field trips, performance opportunities and competitions. “But we’ve tried to come up with creative ideas where we’re not just asking parents to dig into their pockets all the time,” said organization co-founder and president Randie Ratick.
The Highland Music Boosters will host a fundraising Family Fun Day this Sunday, June 7 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Lakeside Licks on Route 299 in Highland. The event will include special one-day discount prices to play 18 holes of miniature golf and family friendly food, ice cream and the chance to win prizes. Local business owners are joining Nanette and John Marsh of Lakeside Licks in sponsoring the event, so that funds raised will go toward the projects of the HMB. The business community in Highland has been “incredibly supportive,” said Ratick, purchasing ads in school concert programs and making outright donations, like those received from Sawyer Savings Bank and Stewart’s Shops.
The primary fundraising goal for the group this year has been the purchase of new choral risers, something that was high on the “wish list” of district music educators when they were asked what was needed, said Ratick. The existing risers are more than 20 years old and in unsafe condition, she added, badly falling apart and without supportive backs. Almost half of the $11,000 cost was raised through partnering with the Highland Educational Foundation in March at the annual “Snow Ball” dinner, dance and auction fundraiser. The new risers, once acquired, will be kept at the high school but available for use by all three schools.
As a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, the Highland Music Boosters actively pursue grants, as well. When a very competitive grant from the VH1 Save The Music Foundation came up — awarded to only 12 school districts nationwide — Ratick said they didn’t think they had much of a chance. But in deciding “you have to be in it to win it,” she wrote the grant and it paid off. “They called last week and I almost fell off my chair,” she said. The Highland Central School District was selected to receive the VH1 Kids & Keys Grant, which provides the district with a state-of-the-art Kawai CS10 hybrid piano valued at $10,000. The hybrid instrument, with acoustic and digital features, will be used in all of the band and choral programs. Another grant for instrument acquisition is pending, said Ratick; all part of the group’s mission to “advocate for excellence.”
The Highland Music Boosters meet on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the high school library. More information is available on the group’s new website at www.highlandmusicboosters.org.