Journey drummer pledges $10K to South Albany

Journey drummer pledges $10K to South Albany

ALBANY — Drummer Deen Castronovo of Journey heard about Wednesday's fire at South Albany High School through a text from a friend and fellow Oregonian. His text back: "How can I help?"

The friend contacted a TV station, which in turn provided a contact at Greater Albany Public Schools. Castronovo and his wife, Deidra, have committed to a $10,000 donation to the high school's band and choir programs, whose classrooms, instruments, sheet music and supplies were destroyed in the blaze.

“It's just heartbreaking; it’s a mess. That’s just sad," Castronovo said in a phone interview Thursday from Dallas, Texas. "Me and my wife, Deidra, we both knew in our hearts it (the donation) is the right thing to do.”

Castronovo, 49, calls Salem home when he's not on tour. He said he's hoping to find time to meet with South students personally about the loss once he returns to Oregon later this month.

"I would love to talk to the kids, give them some encouragement," he said. "It's a disappointing loss and a bummer all around."

Band director Isaac Andrew said he would love the chance to introduce his students to Castronovo. The program lost between $250,000 and $350,000 in instruments, uniforms and sheet music, and he's not yet sure where classes will be held when school resumes Monday.

Superintendent Maria Delapoer has said the district expects insurance to cover most of the fire's losses, but not all of them. Cash donations will be used for equipment and materials not covered.

Donations of materials are being routed through Assistant Superintendent Tonja Everest, who can be reached at tonja.everest@albany.k12.or.us.

Monetary contributions are being funneled through the Albany Public Schools Foundation. Aimee Addison, development director, said individuals have contributed everything from a single dollar to $2,500 so far. Most are from Oregonians, but at least one came from a contributor in Illinois.

Addison said the foundation's treasurer, Elaine Wells, reported that most of the donations have come through the foundation’s website, www.albanypubicschoolsfoundation.org.

One donation for $100, however, was personally delivered, she said. The woman came in Thursday and said she had lost everything in a fire 10 years ago and wanted to help others who had suffered a similar loss.

Wells Fargo & Company announced Thursday it is donating $5,000 to the Albany Public Schools Foundation, and will also match donations its employees make to the school from $25 up to $5,000 per individual this year. 

The bank's donation brings contributions to the foundation in the fire's aftermath to about $10,000, Addison said. Castronovo's donation brings that total to about $20,000.

Isaac Andrew, South Albany's band director, said Castronovo called him personally on Thursday afternoon, saying he just wanted to see how Andrew was doing.

The drummer said he has a music store in California where he and his friends get supplies and told Andrew to give him a wish list for the program.

"He was really cool. He was just totally down to earth," Andrew said. 

Still drumming for Journey after 17 years, Castronovo just released his first solo album with his own band, Revolution Saints. His own school music classes, he said, were the basis for his career and the inspiration for his donation.

“The music programs that I was in growing up were an integral part of my development as a drummer. I was a very average student, but I got A’s in all my band classes," he said. 

"I just felt in my heart I could do something to help out. I'm doing everything I can to get people on board."

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