A Northgate HS senior is seeking donations for his Eagle Scout project to refurbish instrumental music stands at Foothill MS in Walnut Creek. Here is his statement asking for community support:
“I’m Matthew Assily, a senior at Northgate High School. I have been involved in instrumental music in the Mount Diablo Unified School District since fourth grade, and am heavily involved in the music program at Northgate.
I am also a Life Scout in Boy Scout Troop 494. For my Eagle Scout project, I am refurbishing the music stands at Foothill Middle School, which includes painting them and stenciling ‘FMS’ onto them for ease of use in the future. In order to carry out this refurbishment, I need to raise funds for tools and supplies.
If you are so inclined, I am looking for voluntary donations of between $5 and $10 to go towards the paint and the safety equipment required for the project. Donations can be sent to Matthew Assily, c/o John Assily, 3240 Stone Valley Road West, Alamo, CA 94507 and checks can be made out to Matthew Assily. I will send you a receipt for your donation. Any funds raised beyond the required money for the project will be given to the Foothill Middle School Instrumental Music program.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for your contribution and for supporting instrumental music in the Mount Diablo Unified School District!”
Here is a video clip of Assily (second from left) playing “Almost Tango” by Gianfranco Gioia with his classmates Eric Nakanishi, Massimius Watson and Ben Lugten: http://www.tout.com/m/0aaowr
Despite budget cuts, high school jazz band programs are alive and well in the Mt. Diablo district. And students in the bands are gathering at DVC right now to share their music with each other during a free Jazz Festival, then enjoy music from the district’s honor jazz band, which includes top musicians from district schools.
Here’s a rundown of the festival, which is already in progress:
3:30 Northgate HS
4:00 Concord HS
4:30 College Park HS
5:00 Mt. Diablo HS
5:30 Ygnacio Valley HS
6:00 Clayton Valley Charter HS
7:30 PM District Honor Jazz Band Concert, followed by DVC Night Jazz Band
9:00 PM End Concert
Just as UMDAF includes Clayton Valley Charter HS, it looks like the district’s band programs are also continuing to include the charter.
High school jazz musicians will converge at Northgate High in Walnut Creek today and Saturday for a jazz festival hosted by the school. Here are the details, which I’m reposting from the Times:
“Walnut Creek’s Northgate hosts jazz festival starting Friday
By Elisabeth Nardi
Contra Costa Times
School bands from all around Contra Costa County will gather at Northgate High School over the next two days for the California Association for Music Education Jazz East Festival 2012.
The two-day school jazz band festival starts at 3 p.m. Friday with a performance from Acalanes High School’s Jazz Band. Following them, bands from various schools around the county play for about 25 minutes each, the day ends with Albany High School Jazz Band at 9:25 p.m.
Then on Saturday the day kicks off at 8 a.m. with Rancho Medanos Junior High Jazz Ensemble. Saturday ends with the Pittsburg High Jazz Ensemble at 4:25 p.m.
The schools compete against one another to win awards at the festival, which will be held at Northgate High, 425 Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek.
Jazz bands from all six Mt. Diablo district high schools will perform during a free concert from 3:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday at in the Performing Arts Center Theater at Diablo Valley College, 321 Golf Club Road in Pleasant Hill.
The event will culminate with performances by the district’s Honor Jazz Band and “The Night Jazz Band” from DVC.
Here’s a rundown of the program:
3:30 p.m. Mt. Diablo HS
4 p.m. Concord HS
4:30 p.m. Ygnacio Valley HS
5 p.m. Clayton Valley HS
5:30 p.m. College Park HS
6 p.m. Northgate HS
7:30 p.m. MDUSD Honor Jazz Ensemble, followed by The Night Jazz Band
Although the event is free, donations to save The Night Jazz Band will be accepted.
If you like stomping your feet to fiddle and banjo music, then you won’t want to miss the “Bluegrass Benefits Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation” concert for music programs in Mt. Diablo schools.
In partnership with Brenden Theatres, the Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation (MDMEF) will present the benefit from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 on the third floor of the theatre’s parking structure at 1985 Willow Pass Road in Concord.
The event will feature bluegrass bands Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands and Oak Grove.
It is planned to bring attention to and raise funds for MDMEF Music Education Grants for schools in the Mt. Diablo School District, according to a news release.
Tickets cost $10 for teens and adults or $5 for children under 12. You can pay at the door.
Here’s the schedule:
1:30-2 p.m.: Bring your instruments to play along during a Bluegrass Workshop presented by members of Oak Grove.
2:10-3 p.m.: Oak Grove performs
3-3:30 p.m.: Raffle Drawing & Announcements
3:30-4:45 p.m.: Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands performs
Some seating will be provided, but you are also encouraged to bring your own chairs. Patrons can get lunch at local restaurants before enjoying bluegrass music “up on the roof.” (It’s not just for the Beatles!)
The foundation was formed to raise awareness of the elimination of the Mt. Diablo school district’s elementary music programs and to solicit donations to support music education for students.
Qualifying organizations can receive grants to provide music instruction to students in the district. Grant applications are available on the website.
“Last month, we granted $22,000 from our new Music Education Grants,” said Joan Miller, foundation president. “We are pleased that through the support we have received from individuals and businesses that we will be able to provide funds that will provide music instruction to the students in our district.”
Grant recipient response
“Thank you so much for your generous gift of support for Westwood Elementary School. With the grant you provided for us, we have been able to hire a teacher and organize an after-school instrumental music program that has already attracted 24 4th and 5th graders. We all know that this would not have been possible without your support, and I speak for many in my expression of gratitude. Our kids are truly fortunate to be able to have this musical experience despite the budgetary hardships in the district.” – Barbara Fuller, Co-VP of Westwood Elementary PFC
“Thank you, MDMEF! Your grant has made it possible for the award-winning Foothill Middle School Jazz Band to continue, and this looks to be a very exciting year for the group.” – Kirk Wetterholm, Foothill Middle School Music Director
A variety of fundraisers are planned to support music in district schools. More information is available on the nonprofit foundation website. Tax ID 27-1292110.
Musicians from Walnut Creek’s two high schools will perform at Yoshi’s in Oakland one week apart.
First up is the Las Lomas High School Jazz Band at 8 p.m. tonight.
“The students have worked hard this year, and this performance will be a fitting highlight to showcase their accomplishments,” said John Schroder, instrumental music director at Las Lomas, in a news release.
Proceeds will benefit the Performing Arts Foundation at Las Lomas. Tickets, which cost $15, are available at the door.
Here’s the Las Lomas Jazz Band playing in San Ramon in December:
Northgate High School’s award-winning Jazz Band will perform next Monday, May 16, at celebrated jazz nightspot Yoshi’s in Oakland, along with its award-winning jazz combo “Jibba Jabba.”
The event will also feature renowned percussionist Edgardo Cambón, leader of the Bay Area salsa band Candela, sitting in with the Northgate musicians.
The groups will play at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the world-famous jazz venue in Oakland’s Jack London Square, capping an exciting season of awards and honors. Past Northgate jazz band performances have sold out, based on the school’s growing reputation for producing top-rated jazz musicians in the state and country.
Nate Schwartz, a sophomore who plays trumpet and guitar, said the Yoshi’s gig is a highlight for the groups, which have garnered high praise from judges at several student jazz band competitions.
“Yoshi’s, to me is just kind of like the culmination of everything that the jazz band has worked on over the course of the entire year,” Nate said. “And it’s really cool that the Northgate jazz band gets to play on the same stage as all the famous people who have played at Yoshi’s.”
The Northgate High Jazz Band plays styles ranging from Ellington to Mingus to straight-ahead and Latin jazz. It is comprised of 22 musicans, including seven who also perform in the combo.
Band director Greg Brown said the Northgate Jazz Band took second place at the Folsom and Campana jazz festivals this year, along with fourth at the prestigious “Next Generation Jazz Festival” in Monterey, which featured top high school jazz musicians from throughout the state who were accepted to participate in the competition based on auditions. In addition, the jazz combo took first place at the Folsom Jazz Festival and third at the Next Generation festival, Brown said.
“Both groups will be featured at the Yoshi’s show,” he said proudly. “Our average score for all of our jazz festivals this year is over 95 percent.”
Professional and semi-professional musicians and music educators judge the festivals.Many of the band’s soloists also have received special recognition for their performances over the year.
The Jazz Band’s Yoshi’s performance raises funds for the Northgate Instrumental Music Boosters. The boosters purchase musical instruments, arrange transportation to school music festivals, and provide other support to the instrumental music program at Walnut Creek’s Northgate High School.
Tickets are $15 for the 8 p.m. performance and $12 for the 10 p.m. show. They can be be purchased from Yoshi’s box office, at the door or by contacting Ellen Lyons at email@example.com.
For further information on the Northgate High School Jazz Band or the May 16 gig contact Greg Brown at (925) 938-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ellen Lyons at email@example.com
Here’s the Northgate Band playing “Wind Machine” in December:
Concord High School’s Jazz Ensemble recently won a first place Gold Award, Outstanding Band Group, and Adjudicator’s Award at the San Diego Heritage Music Festival. The Mt. Diablo school board will recognize the ensemble, along with the school’s other music groups, Tuesday night.
The Concord Jazz Ensemble will perform at Todos Santos Park from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, May 12 and at the All Area Music Festival at at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 14 at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord.
The Thursday “Music and Market” event in Concord is free. Tickets to the Saturday All Area Music Festival cost $10 for the first ticket and $5 for each additional ticket, if purchased in advance at http://www.mdmusicfoundation.org/. Tickets will cost $12 for adults and $6 for students on the day of the festival, which will benefit the Mt. Diablo Education Music Education Festival.
Here’s the Concord High Jazz Ensemble performing at the Concord Tree Lighting in December:
Other groups performing at the festival are: The Ygnacio Valley High Ensemble, soloists from Clayton Valley High, Sleep Crisis (students from Clayton Valley High), combined choir from Wren Elementary and Pleasant Hill Elementary, the Valle Verde Elementary afterschool band, Foothill Middle School Concert Band, Westwood Elementary Show Choir (will be performing part of their musical “Yee Ha!”), Mt. Diablo High Voice Ensemble, from Concord High the String Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble, and from Northgate High, the Symphonic Band, and the Wind Ensemble.
The district has eliminated fourth- and fifth-grade instrumental music, due to budget cuts. It also wants to eliminate the elementary vocal music prep periods, which are currently taught by credentialed music instructors.
Do you think the district should strive to retain its elementary vocal music programs?
California Symphony Orchestra members perform for Mt. Diablo school district fifth-graders during an "In Formance" designed to teach students about music. (Photo by Louie Green, courtesy of MDEF).
I received the following press release this morning from the Mt. Diablo Education Foundation, which recently sponsored visits to the California Symphony Orchestra for district fifth-graders. The nonprofit organization spent about $15,000, including performers, theatre rental, and student buses — or a little more than $10 per student, according to publicist Gary Carr.
“WALNUT CREEK: Members of the California Symphony presented a special ‘In Formance’ for over 1400 5th graders from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District over four shows in two days at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.
The ‘In Formance’ was held on February 22 and 23 and was sponsored by the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation, who paid for the program and the busing for the 5th graders.
Forrest Byram (tuba) led the program, along with Bill Harvey (trumpet), Kale Cummings (trumpet), Meredith Brown (French horn), and Don Benham (trombone). The group ‘traveled in time’ and played such pieces as ‘William Tell Overture,’ ‘Horn Concerto,’ ‘Mozart’s Minute,’ and a Strauss waltz. The group talked about their instruments, (including) why the shape and length affects the sound. Byram even used a garden hose to make a very long horn. (He) then demonstrated how rhythm is important to music, and led the students in foot stomping, hand clapping and singing ‘We Will Rock You.’
Victor Avdienko , a percussionist joined the group to talk about his drum kit and xylophone, and backed up the brass section on ‘The Entertainer’ and ‘In the Mood,’ and ended with ‘La Bamba.’
The Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation is dedicated to supporting the music programs in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and will be hosting the 2nd All Area Music Festival at the Sleep Train Pavilion on Saturday, May 14 featuring student performers in bands and choirs from the high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. For more information on the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation, visit www.mdmusicfoundation.org.”
[END PRESS RELEASE]
Since the district has cut instrumental music in fourth and fifth grades, some middle school bands are visiting local elementary schools to perform and possibly interest incoming sixth-graders in taking beginning band. The school board on Tuesday voted to lay off 3.4 music teachers districtwide.
Do you think the elimination of fifth-grade instrumental music programs this year will negatively affect middle school music programs next year?
By Theresa Harrington
Two Mt. Diablo district administrators met with parents at Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill yesterday to find out what kind of principal would suit the campus.
About 11 parents showed up, after teachers met with Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and Support, and Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel.
Parents said they want a principal who will continue the excellence at the school and support the teachers and staff the way former Principal Hellena Postrk did. Postrk has been promoted to a position in the district office, where she will coach other principals about how to improve their schools, Lock said.
One parent said she wasn’t aware Postrk had been promoted until she received a district message informing her about the parent meeting.
Braun-Martin explained that the district developed a spring eligibility pool of candidates for high school and middle school openings. The board appointed Bill Morones as principal of Ygnacio Valley High June 15, replacing Carolyn Plath, who retired.
The district first paper screens candidates and then forwards those they’re interested in to first round interviews, Braun-Martin said. These interviews include a parent representative, classified staff rep and teacher rep.
For Sequoia, parent club president Nancy Morgan is the rep who sat in on interviews Monday. Morgan said she is not allowed to discuss the interviews.
After the first round, some candidates are fowarded to a second round interview with Superintendent Steven Lawrence and other district office administrators, including Lock and Braun-Martin. Lawrence will be given the list of qualities Sequoia parents are looking for, Braun-Martin said.
If he believes he has a good match, he will forward a recommendation to the board in July. If not, the district could pursue another round of applicants and might seek an interim principal, who would most likely be a recently retired principal, Braun-Martin said.
Lock cautioned that the district is not looking for an exact replica of Sequoia’s most recent principals, including Postrk, Vivian Boyd and Jim Durflinger. Instead, the district will try to find someone who meets the “hopes and dreams” of parents and staff, she said.
One parent said she’d like a candidate who’s familiar with the district and community, as well as the special “Academics Plus” status of the magnet school, which attracts students from throughout the district. Another parent said she wants a principal who will advocate for Sequoia within the district, is transparent and able to make tough decisions.
The parent of an incoming seventh-grader said she’d like the new principal to be visible on campus and to maintain student safety as a high priority.
Morgan said she wants a principal with an “open door” policy, who is approachable and communicates well with students, parents, staff and the community. She also noted that the school is expected to accept more than 900 students in the fall, including some who request transfers from the district’s lowest-achieving schools (Glenbrook and Oak Grove middle schools in Concord), under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Lock said both she and Braun-Martin have been in the district more than 20 years and that they understand Sequoia and will communicate its unique qualities to Lawrence and principal candidates.
Lock said she started her career in the district as vice principal of Sequoia Middle School. Braun-Martin said she was formerly principal of Monte Gardens Elementary, which feeds into Sequoia.
Braun-Martin assured parents that the district conducts background checks on all applicants who are seriously considered. She said the district invited internal candidates to apply for the openings at Glenbrook and Sequoia after the Glenbrook principal left and Postrk was promoted.
“We’re looking for the best person,” Lock said.
Principals must have an administrative credential, as well as administrative experience, Braun-Martin said. She does not give out information about the size of the candidate pool, she added.
If candidates are interested in both the Glenbrook and Sequoia openings, the interviews could be combined, she said.
The district is also conducting elementary principal interviews for openings at Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton, and Monte Gardens and Silverwood elementary schools in Concord. The board may hold a special meeting next week, if Lawrence decides to recommend one of the candidates recently interviewed.
Lock said Shore Acres Principal Kari Rees will stay at that school after all, because the state clarified its reform requirements, saying principals could remain if they have been at underperforming schools three years or less, instead of two years.
All administrators in the district were given their tentative fall assignments June 30, Lock said. Both Sequoia’s vice principal and student services coordinator are tentatively scheduled to return to the school, she said.
Lock told me after the meeting that she often conducts reference checks, but isn’t involved in background checks. She said the district always calls the candidate’s most recent supervisor during reference checks.
Lock confirmed that written applications ask candidates if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and ask them to explain, if they have.
“Usually, when they indicate, ‘yes,’, we research that and investigate that,” Lock said.
She said she didn’t know if Christopher Nugent, who was unanimously appointed by the school board as principal of Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton last month, revealed his DUI conviction on his application. Nugent later withdrew his name from consideration, after reports surfaced about his DUI arrest, charges of resisting arrest, and his previous resignation from a Tennessee school district after he inadvertently posted student Social Security numbers online.
Nugent wasn’t convicted of resisting arrest and wasn’t prosecuted for the online student security breach.
Lock said she didn’t think Lawrence knew Nugent, since Nugent was from Elk Grove, which is outside Contra Costa County and quite distant from Lawrence’s previous district in West Sacramento.
“It’s not something you usually hide,” she said. “I’ve known several of the candidates.”
Lawrence wouldn’t need to recuse himself from the selection if he knew a candidate, she said.
“Actually,” Lock said, “if you know someone, that gives you more information about a person…that’s first-hand information that I may know and I use that.”
Braun-Martin said she couldn’t discuss Nugent’s application. She said candidates are fingerprinted after they are approved to be hired, but that additional paperwork must be completed before the hire is completed.
Nugent chose to withdraw his name after the board appointed him, she said.
A DUI wouldn’t necessarily exclude a candidate from being appointed as a district administrator, Braun-Martin said. Instead, a DUI would be something that would be investigated further, she said, through interviews, vetting and reference checks, to make an informed decision about the candidate.
In response to questions from parents about the status of pink-slipped teachers, Braun-Martin said the district has begun calling them back.
Today, Jessica Beerbaum informed me she has been hired to teach fifth-grade at Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord, after being laid-off from her job at Silverwood Elementary in June. She was number 24 on the layoff list, she said.
“Things change everyday,” Lock said. “We don’t want to lose good teachers.”
Lock confirmed, however, that popular College Park High School instrumental music teacher Johnnie Johnson moved to Texas after being laid-off in June. Similarly, former Sequoia Middle School instrumental music teacher Marcus Goodlow moved back to Texas last year, after being laid-off.
This year’s Sequoia instrumental music teacher Eric Thompson has also been laid-off. And star Sequoia music student Larry Wang, who was featured in the Times as a “Hometown Hero” on Monday, has transferred to the Acalanes district to attend high school, in part because of its more stable music program. He would have attended College Park, had he remained in the Mt. Diablo district.
Lock acknowledged that some good teachers are moving out of state, tired of going through the anxiety associated with pink slips each year, as the result of state budget cuts.
“What we’re doing in California is a tragedy,” she said.
Would you be comfortable with a principal who has been convicted of DUI? Do you think candidates’ convictions should be disclosed to the board before the superintendent recommends them?
Northgate jazz band at Yoshi's Oakland on May 17, 2010
By Theresa Harrington
At the Northgate High School jazz band performance at Yoshi’s in Oakland on Monday, instrumental director Greg Brown made a surprise announcement: “I just found out I still have a job!”
The crowd cheered and Brown said he was celebrating with the students, who rocked the house with an awesome show.
Afterwards, Brown told me that Mt. Diablo school board President Paul Strange interrupted his dinner to tell him his pink slip was rescinded. Brown said he had spent one of the worst weekends of his life worrying about losing his job at the end of the year.
Although he has 13 years experience directing bands and orchestras at the Walnut Creek school, he was one of 25 music teachers in the district to receive a pink slip.
Teachers’ union president Mike Noce confirmed that Brown was among several music teachers whose pink slips were rescinded this week. Others included Concord High School band teacher Gary Coartney and choir director Christian Emigh. Johnny Johnson, who directs the College Park High School bands, was not on the list of teachers who have been informed they will be able to keep their jobs, Noce said.
Gail Isserman, assistant superintendent for personnel, told me that many pink-slips were rescinded because the district won’t have time to negotiate the elimination of fourth- and fifth-grade prep time, since the teachers’ union has not yet come to the bargaining table.
She provided this list of music teachers who will not be laid-off or bumped to another subject area in 2010-11:
Teachers with less seniority who are not on this list are either still in layoff status or could be bumped into anonther subject area, if they have a second credential, Isserman said. Some teachers will be laid off because trustees have eliminated fifth-grade instrumental music next year.
The Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation continues to fund-raise to try to save fifth-grade music.
Some proceeds from the KidFest on May 29-31 in Concord will help benefit the nonprofit organization.
More information is at http://www.mdmusicfoundation.org/index.html.
By Theresa Harrington
Out of about 350 pink slips issued by the Mt. Diablo school district, 180 have been rescinded, the assistant superintendent for personnel told me this afternoon.
That leaves about 170 teachers and other credentialed employees wondering if they’ll have jobs in the fall.
Music teachers have been hit especially hard because the school board has agreed to eliminate fifth-grade instrumental music next year.
In addition, the district is trying to negotiate the elimination of elementary school prep time currently covered by vocal music teachers. Music teachers who hold more than one credential, such as Elizabeth Emigh and Mundy Viar at Clayton Valley High School, did not get pink-slipped because they could teach other subjects.
Emigh could teach English and Viar could teach U.S. government and civics. But both teachers said music is their passion.
“Why would I want to give up something I’m an expert in and give kids less than my expertise?” Emigh said.
The district issued 25 pink slips to music teachers and has rescinded eight, said Gail Isserman, assistant superintendent for personnel services.
“We had to go very high up in seniority, if we were going to eliminate music prep — way higher than we were going to eliminate any other subject areas,” she said. “So, that’s why we needed a separate music list.”
The district has posted lists of all pink-slipped employees on its Website at http://www.mdusd.org/NewsRoom/Documents/certlayoffinfo.pdf. The music list is alphabetical and includes teachers hired as early as 1987.
Here is the music list:
Geoffry Cartner (rescinded; hired in 1987)
Nicole Kellersberger (probationary teacher)
Eric Thompson (probationary teacher)
You can see a video of Delta View Elementary school’s instrumental music program here: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid16737344001?bclid=1659839212&bctid=49465399001
Isserman said the district has not yet begun negotiations with the teachers’ union. Teachers who have received preliminary layoff notices can attend public administrative hearings regarding credentials and/or seniority April 27-29 at the Willow Creek Center in Concord.
Gary McAdam, principal of Concord High, said both his instrumental and vocal music teachers — Gary Coartney and Christian Emigh — have received preliminary layoff notices. The absence of Coartney and Emigh next year would be devastating, McAdam said.
“It’s horrible,” he said. “It will destroy a top music program. And, this is some of the reason students attend. It’s not just the three Rs, it’s those electives — sports, music and drama — and everything else you do.”
Budget cuts have forced Concord High to eliminate German language and zoology classes and to reduce sections of auto shop, drama, ceramics, bowling and biology, McAdam said.
Teachers will receive final layoff notices in May.