Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Music Program Provides 'A Little Brightness'

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Music Program Provides 'A Little Brightness'

Article excerpt

A little-known music program has continued to provide a bridge for Unified School District 501 band, orchestra and choir students over their summer break.

"I think it's one of our best-kept secrets," said Pamela Johnson- Betts, executive director of the Topeka Public Schools Foundation. "We just see it as providing opportunities that wouldn't be afforded otherwise."

The TPS Foundation is the entity that supports USD 501 programs separately from the district's budget. Johnson-Betts said the foundation's volunteer board continues to foot the estimated $5,600 bill year after year for the summer music program because of a commitment to the musical enrichments of the district's students.

"Our goal has always been to put an emphasis not just on the needy but the arts," she said. "This allows a little brightness for children in the summer."

Students who have completed third through eighth grades are eligible to participate in band, strings or choir. The location each summer usually rotates among the district's high schools. This summer more than 100 students are taking advantage of the program at Topeka West.

Toni Rainey, 16, who plays the violin and will be a junior at Topeka High, has attended the summer music camp since she was a third-grader at Lowman Hill Elementary and through her years at Robinson Middle School.

"Playing with a big group like this helped me transfer into middle school (band) and then high school," she said. Now Rainey helps with the summer program as a mentor, saying it's like taking the younger version of herself and helping the students grow musically.

"Like pointing notes out and helping them keep beat and intonation," she said. "It's like teaching myself all over again."

Rainey said she was recruited to help with this year's summer program by Michiko Snell, a USD 501 music teacher who has led the program since about 2005.

"I've been with her for about 10 years now," she said, adding that Snell was her music teacher at Lowman Hill. …

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