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1953 cornet

A 1953 King cornet sits in its case in the middle school band room last week.

If the Philomath School District ever decides to dedicate a corner in one of its buildings to the history of the local music program, an old 1953 King cornet could easily serve as the exhibit’s centerpiece.

Of course, first, the instrument will need to be retired. Just last week in Diane Crocker’s middle school band room, a student practiced on the old cornet.

In the local schools, there are many examples of aging instruments, cases and other equipment that need to either be repaired or replaced. For those reasons, along with various other choir and band needs, the Philomath Performing Arts Benefit Fund was established.

Last year at this time, the fund’s board and volunteers were racing the clock to try to bring in $20,000 in donations by the end of December to be able to take full advantage of a matching grant. Contributors came through and as of last week, the organization’s balance sheet showed just under $78,000 in the bank.

The fund now has another opportunity to receive up to $20,000 with two donors pledging up to $10,000 each for one-on-one matching. If this year’s fundraising efforts can again reach those levels and earn the full amounts of those matches, the balance could get up to $118,000.

“We haven’t gone way — it wasn’t a flash in the pan or a one-time thing,” said Tom Klipfel, who serves as treasurer of the Philomath Performing Arts Benefit Fund board. “We’re in it for the long haul to get a significant endowment in place.”

In all, additional current program funding needs add up to more than $150,000.

Kay McGee, the nonprofit organization’s board president, said the goal is to receive a 4-percent grant each year on the amount earning interest. For example, if the fund gets up to $100,000, then $4,000 would be available for grants in January 2020.

As the endowment fund’s principle grows from year to year, the amount of the grants would then increase and eventually the performing arts programs could get caught up on repairs and replacements while funding future needs.

The endowment fund has not paid out any grants to the schools yet because an entire calendar year must pass before any interest can be spent. When grant money is available out of the fund, Crocker said teachers will then be asked to submit a list of needs and the board will make decisions on where the money goes.

Crocker said that despite no money being available over the past year out of the endowment fund, the performing arts programs did receive direct support donations and other grants to be able to accomplish a few things.

Crocker said that the two most recent grants received have gone to instrument repair. A check of inventory showed that over $10,000 in repairs was needed.

“Through grants, I was able to fund $6,000 of that,” she said. “We still have some instruments that haven’t been repaired but the ones that we’re using right now have gotten repairs and so I’m very, very happy about that.”

Klipfel said the effort of applying for those grants will continue even when the endowment fund begins to pay out.

“Most of the time, those foundations that provide those grants, they don’t want to give to an endowment fund because that’s just taking money out of their endowment and giving it to someone else’s endowment, so they’d rather be giving direct gifts,” he said. “In the short term, this year if things go well, it’ll be a $1,600 (endowment) grant and next year, it’s $4,000. That’s not trivial, but you can get more in the short term from other grant sources as well.”

The vast majority of those who donate do want their contributions to go toward the endowment, but there are those who want some funds to go directly to a program for an immediate need. As such, the organization can serve as a pass-through for that purpose.

“We want to be that front to the community as well for people that just want to write a check. They can certainly do that to the school system directly but we love it when they run it through us because we’re putting a lot of effort into it and it just shows again that we’re a force in the community and a good way to get directly to the programs that the contributors want to direct them for,” Klipfel explained.

The Philomath Performing Arts Benefit Fund was granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

The school district has shown a commitment to music by funding dedicated performing arts teachers on all campuses. Klipfel said that differs from what you see in most school districts these days.

“The fact that we have music in the school district literally from kindergarten all the way through the 12th grade, that is one of the crown jewels, I think, of the school district,” Klipfel said. “You go to plenty of other schools and they’ve cut music long ago, certainly at the primary and elementary level.”

Some schools ask their general classroom teachers to work music into their lesson plans.

As Klipfel pointed out, providing those dedicated music teachers represents the extent of the available funding.

“There’s really no money for instruments; there’s no money for facility upgrades or adjustments, field trips, those kinds of things,” he said. “That’s all ‘pass the hat around.’ But this district has maintained a commitment to the performing arts in at least the staffing at every grade level and for that, we’re grateful. But like anything else, that’s just the beginning. You can’t run a music program without instruments.”

McGee said a big focus this school year is establishing the organization’s website ( and Facebook page. In fact, student Evan McDaniel is managing those online presences and other marketing strategies for his senior project.

Through those channels, upcoming performances will be announced and there will be features such as photo galleries and videos, McGee said. Plus, instructors can easily communicate with the community with information that they want to get out.

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