Marathon music event benefits Anne Sullivan school band

Music and dancing were in good supply at the Bands for Band! event.

Photo by Elias Adams

Fundraiser nets $7,000 for music program

LONGFELLOW—Parents, musicians and local businesses banded together at the Eagle’s Club recently for the noteworthy cause of bringing band back to school.

Band and other programs were cut out of Anne Sullivan Communication Center curriculum nearly two years ago due to statewide education budget cuts of $185 million in 2003.

But band at Anne Sullivan was struck up again this past month due to the hard work and determination of parents who refused to let the music die, and a wealth of support from the community.

Parents Lori Gleason, Carmela Kranz, Cindy Siewert, and Sharon Arvold formed a core fundraising team. Anne Sullivan principal David Branch found money in his budget to hire band director Brian Vander Huel to teach fifth and sixth graders two half days a week.

Immediately, a record number of 110 kids signed up for band. But they needed instruments. Then the team heard about a VH-1 Save the Music Foundation grant, applied for it, and were one of two schools to receive $25,000 worth of refurbished instruments. But they needed $15,000 more to keep the band playing on.

State Rep. Jim Davnie attended a PTA meeting in November to discuss the state of funding in education. While there, he was told of the VH-1 grant. Davnie said, “Immediately I offhandedly thought of the musicians in the neighborhood. I said, ‘How about having a neighborhood concert?’”

The women were inspired. They recruited local musician Kory Badertscher, who has two kids attending Anne Sullivan, to organize the music program for the “Bands for Band!” benefit Feb. 11. Badertscher has a long history of playing music on the West Bank and Seward neighborhood scenes, including Three Bedroom Ramblers with Dave Ray, and Mill City Hearts with John Beach. He currently drums for the New Orleans R & B–style Rich Lewis Band and the Faux Playboys—and both bands played at the benefit.

Badertscher got the go-ahead to use the Eagles Club from 1 to 9 p.m. for the Bands for Band! benefit. Eagle Club manager/booker Vince Gillespie put the room together.

Badertscher asked local musician Bill Geezy, who is also an ASL interpreter at Anne Sullivan, to play folk, and Andrew “Cadillac” Kolstad played honky tonk blues piano. “I liked his energy! He said, ‘Yes!’ right away, without hesitation.” Badertscher said.

There was a Hip-Hop Dance-a-thon, the Seward Montessori Jazz Band, the Dick & Jane Big Brass Band (New Orleans-style funk), and Zafiro featuring Viviana from Cuba. Teen band C-Section closed the evening with electronic pop.

More than 450 people attended, raising $7,000 in donations, $2,000 (40 percent) more than their goal for the day. Food was donated by Milio’s, Cub Foods, Old Dutch, Best Maid Cookies, Swanson’s Meats, Inc., Pizza Lucé, and others. Besides donating the space, the Eagle’s Club donated a buck per Summit sold. Neighborhood businesses donated for a raffle; some of these were FreeWheel Bike, Siewart Cabinet ($1,000 worth of handmade cabinetry!), Riverview Theater, Soderbergs Floral and Gifts, Crown Video and Tanning, and several restaurants such as The Birchwood Cafe, the Craftsman, Cliquot Club Cafe, Dunn Bros Coffee, True Thai, Longfellow Grill, Lake Street Garage, New French Bakery.

Fourth grader Frank Badertscher raked in the winning raffles—$175 worth—and said of the event, “I think it went great. We got a lot of money from this event, more than we thought we would. A lot of parents helped out. The whole community contributed.” Badertscher can’t be in band this year because there is no band for fourth graders, but he plans on it next year. “My dad [Kory] has taught me some drumming. I might take drums, or I might take clarinet—my mom and my sister play clarinet.”

His sister, Liliana, a sixth grader, who was helping sell food, said, “I think band should be part of everyone’s life—its very creative and it’s not a waste of time.” Samantha Warren, sixth grade, said, “We were really sad when band went away.” Fourth grader Hannah Arnold said, “There should be band for fourth graders. I hope there will be next year.” Some of these kids, such as Rachel Kranz and Fallon Gleason were on WCCO television that morning reporting on the upcoming event and introducing the Rich Lewis Band, who played a song on the show.

The event was a splash in the media—Star Tribune’s columnist, Doug Grow wrote a column that morning, and Channels 4, 5 and 9 as well as WCCO-AM were at the event. A couple of students were on KFAI-FM’s Sugar Shop with host Lolly Obeda to talk about the upcoming Bands for Band! during Obeda’s broadcast the previous Friday at Hiawatha School’s “Sweet on School” dance celebrating public schools.

It’s not only Anne Sullivan school that’s had trouble keeping band and other arts programs in the school. Davnie said Minneapolis was hit particularly hard in 2003 when the city district received cuts three and a half times deeper than the average school in the state. He said the cuts targeted special education and English as a Second Language programs.

“Minneapolis has the highest amount of both,” Davnie added, “according to the state auditor, special education costs have gone up over 30 percent in the last four years.” Davnie quoted a 2005 report funded by several education groups, claiming that “$900 million statewide is needed to bring schools up to the standards the state requires.”

Anne Sullivan school is one of the most diverse schools in the state. Principal Branch said there are a lot of Somali students from the Cedar Riverside Towers. East Africans make up 28 percent of the school’s 750 students. Another 21 percent are African American, 31 percent white, 11 percent Native American, and 4 percent are Asian or Hispanic. Also, 72 percent are at or below poverty level. People come from as far as St. Louis Park and Brooklyn Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at Anne Sullivan school.

Due to budget cuts, Anne Sullivan has lost choir, sign language, electives in the middle school program and many staff. They have a goal of raising $40,000 next year and $80,000 for band alone to continue.

last revised: August 9, 2006