Tickling New Ivories

You may not notice the piano at Staples’ Candlelight Concerts next weekend — but the singers and musicians sure will.

A fund drive to raise $30,000 for a new Yamaha C3 grand piano — in honor of now-retired choral director Alice Lipson — has borne fruit.  The old one was used for every Candlelight Concert, musical performance, Players production and — for good measure, music class — for years.  It played out its string.

Dave DeVoll (center) and Fran Southworth present the new piano to David Winer, townwide music supervisor.

Fran Southworth and Dave DeVoll headed up a Staples Music Parents Association fundraising effort.  “We desperately need a new piano!” is not an easy sell, but the money finally came in.

The final piece was a luncheon/recital in late September.  Westporter Frederic Chiu — a nationally renowned classical pianist — was the featured performer.

Buying a grand piano is a bit more intricate than a scarf, or even an SUV.  The instrument needed custom voicing work done at the New York factory.  With tone quality regulated and improved, the new piano is now up to professional concert level.

This far exceeds the average “educational” piano found in most schools.  Then again, the Staples music program far exceeds the average too.

A humidifier system has been installed in the piano — very important, during the dry days of winter.

The piano debuts next Friday and Saturday (Dec. 10 and 11), at the Candlelight Concerts.  This is the 70th anniversary of that prestigious event.

With luck — and loving care — Staples’ grand piano will be around for 69 more.

(Anyone [including non-parents] interested in joining the Staples Music Parents Association should email shsmpa@aol.com, and/or go to the next meeting:  Tuesday, Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m. in the Staples orchestra room.)

30 responses to “Tickling New Ivories

  1. Jim Honeycutt

    Great job Fran and Dave! This is a huge contribution to wonderful program at Staples High School. And just in time for Candlelight! Congratulations to the Music Department at Staples!

  2. Ostentatious.

  3. Westporter 81

    I can’t believe the parents had to pay for a new piano in the high school auditorium! Another example of the lack of support for the Music Department by Landon, Dodig and the Board of Education. It wasn’t like that years ago.
    Good job all you music parents!!!

  4. Max Stampa-Brown

    excellent. really dig the little snow-fall

  5. Congratulations and thanks to Dave and Fran who worked to get Staples this piano even after their own children graduated.

  6. Westporter 81,
    You are very correct in your praise for the generosity of the music parents. However, you apparently have missed the budget battles of the last few years which would explain your observation on the “lack of support of the Music Department” by the administration and BOE. The Board of Finance and RTM have created a budgetary situation where the schools administration struggles just to keep class size to reasonable levels. Stay tuned for what is about to begin for next year’s budget.

  7. I’m frankly blown away that Fran and Dave could make this happen — and that so many people were willing to donate. That’s a chunk o’ change!

    I’m sad to see someone finds the purchase ostentatious. Many of our kids (and parents) highly value music, and it makes me happy to see just a little bit of parity here for the relatively unsung (no pun intended) music program. (It also benefits the theater department, of course.)

    I’ll admit I wish all monies (taxes and donations) were pooled, and that there was a Title IX-type balance between sports and music and art and clubs in allocating funds. But since that’s not the way it works — and I’m sure some of the Boosters are glad — I’m excited to see there’s so much community support for our vocalists and instrumentalists.

  8. The Staples Gridiron Club and PAL raised the majority of money for the artificical fields in town that are used by thousands of athletes. I am not sure why there is griping about a piano, no matter how seemingly grandiose. To suggest, however, that Title IX athletic revenue be pooled with the arts is non-sensical considering the comparative number in participation and money raised in direct result. I dare say that Mr. Goodrich (above) has predicted much of the future in private funding and perhaps, this may be a good thing. The town can not continue to be an ATM machine.

  9. Hey, Booster,

    I’m guessing you’re proud and happy to have such modern facilities for athletes. As a former varsity athlete myself (way too many years ago), I know I’d certainly have appreciated a little of the support this community gives its teams! As you said, you think it makes sense to put more money where the kids are: Sports.

    This practical approach makes sense, yet it leaves out the old chicken/egg conundrum: I’d argue our kids play a lot of sports because the community itself loves sports. Parents and grandparents and nonparents love to go to games (concerts, not so much). The local paper has a whole sports section. WN features many, many pictures of sporting events. And Lord knows it’s easier to get a football scholarship than get recruited for flute.

    I’m thinking, since you didn’t refer to the artificial fields as “seemingly grandiose,” that you really value choice over where your money goes. I hope you know that many, many kids (including some of our best athletes) also take advantage of the choral and instrumental programs during the school day, and will benefit from the new piano. And, though I’m afraid you’ll call me ignorant and naive, I’m hopeful that the wider community will provide some civic wisdom to balance out the very human and understandable tendency for people with money to want to support their favorite causes.

  10. Uh, ah: Your points are valid. The numbers playing sports far outweigh those of musical inclination. Whether this is a result of the culturiological determination of the area, I am not that smart. I did both at Staples — band and orchestra – – – but my memories lie on the soccer field and Longshore golf course. I think my main point is that if you want something (such as an expensive piano), you better plan on paying for it. I certainly was an active member of my daughter’s booster club and with a measley $2,500 budget, we raised over $25,000 for their various costumes and travel. I certainly applaud the Staples music department for raising the funds they needed. My comments were directed to those who think that such funds should have come from the school or taxpayers. “Pay to Play” is becoming the norm in many states, such as Ohio, and I would think this trend will continue to all extra-curricular activities. A sign of the times but we had a good ride for a long time.

  11. Westporter 81

    Jim Goodrich,
    I haven’t missed the “budget battles”. They’re covered by the local newspapers and ch.78. We’re all well aware of the needed budget cuts in this town. Looks like this will be the third year in a row that the Staples music department will get a cut that once again effects the music kids in a negative way. Do you still work at Staples? If the football goal posts somehow get destroyed will the parents have to pay to replace them?

  12. Westporter 81

    To Booster
    Music is not an extra-curricular at Staples. It’s part of the curriculum. And a $35,000 Yamaha grand piano is probably not considered “expensive” these days. Ever gone in the Steinway store on Post Road?

    • No, I am unfamiliar with the cost of a piano. Thanks. Trumpet man myself. So when the band or orchestra or choir perform outside of school hours, it is considered course work??????

      • Yes, it is considered coursework. Both the mandatory 90-minute after-of-school practices and the weekend Candlelight Concerts count toward the kids’ grades this quarter.

        • Tough grind. Perhaps that is why I remember soccer/golf more favorably. They had a marching band then for football games as well with white shoes and goofy hats.

  13. Staples class of '03

    The music offerings at Staples are both classroom-based and ensemble-driven, curricular and extracurricular. A great many students reap the academic benefits of learning music, of having started at that crucial age in elementary school ensembles, while simultaneously experiencing the character and team-building elements that sports offer. The program is bigger than it looks. The irony of its relevance is that in the face of sports, so much of its value is indirect and unseen by the “viewer”, perhaps just as indirect as the correlation between a positive school budget and the effects of strong schools as felt by the town and its citizens. My question is this: who really does understand music and its importance in k12 education, and who is out there backing it, besides its participants and their parents? In the midst of cuts to its program and preparations for its probable return to the chopping block for this budget season, why are two music parents here the few that have stepped up to lend a helping hand? What about the community that gets Candlelight? Or Westporters that like to boast of Staples’ image?

  14. Where do you think the $35,000 came from?

    • Staples class of '03

      Ahh, perhaps I’m wrong: maybe others in addition to the parents of music students donated. But if that support exists, where is the voice of the community on these music / budget issues? Raising $$ for a new piano is a great gesture and a really nice achievement, but why not also fight for the program?

      • You make it sound like Staples is gathering instruments and burning them in the furnace to heat the school. What program cuts? Do you have any evidence or examples of any such cuts? Is there a single concert or production that has been held in the past that has been eliminated? Does the Staples orchestra and band sound any different? Are there fewer students participating in music in the elementary and middle schools?

      • They’ve been whittling away at the program for years, and it’s been a real strain on the teachers, who’ve done all they can to plug the gaps. If it doesn’t seem like there’ve been cuts, that’s why.

        As for fighting for the program, sometimes I think the “Beware! We’re going to cut X!” gambit, followed by the “Get out the moms!” strategy, used year in and year out when the economy was better, has either been overplayed or simply doesn’t work anymore, with the economy the way it is.

        Oh, and I do believe many people (not just parents) donated. And there were other parents who helped with the effort…Fran and Dave just led the charge.

  15. Staples class of '03

    Cuts: (1) reduction of the staples lesson program. Yes, this does have an impact on how the ensembles sound. And that’s not the point. Value in music education isn’t just the number of concerts or productions, or even the concerts/productions themselves. (2) The Music department secretary position was cut. And yes, there are fewer students participating in the music programs at the elementary and middle school levels, I gather. I’m sure that the music parents or whoever forms the support are well-versed in all of these statistics and can more adequately answer these questions.

    • You “gather” fewer students are involved in elementary and middle school music programs. Based on what evidence? My middle schooler and elementary schooler have the same program their older sibling had. Individual lessons were replaced by group lessons- hardly a “cut.” Music department secretary cut- I dare you to tell me how that effects music education.

      Quite frankly this is all just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Education in this town is about to be decimated. You can witness it live tonight on Channel 78 beginning at 7:30 PM.

  16. Go Staples Music!

    Staples ’03 is correct about the cuts of the lesson program and music secretary that were done by Landon and approved by the Board of Ed during the past two years. Before that he eliminated the annual Orchestra Festival for music students of all ages, and it is much smaller now and only every other year. Good chance there will be more music cuts in this year’s budget battles!

    • The Orchestra Festival was an annual disaster that everyone hated. As currently constructed it is barely tolerable.

  17. Staples class of '03

    Individual lessons and group lessons are not the same. And this was a hugely significant cut. It’s the same concept as individual English conferences versus group conferences. A few minute long group lesson has little value for each individual. And define what about the “program” was the same for both your youngsters. I’m curious as to how you define the values of what it’s offering.
    The secretary cut has had music teachers scrambling to complete the day-to-day tasks I’m told, less time in the classroom. I second “Go Staples Music”: what’s next on the chopping block?

    • Define “program”- same teachers, same classroom time, same lessons, same concert schedule, same level of difficulty, same standard of excellence. All unchanged. All great. Last I checked the length of time spent by the teachers in the classroom is unchanged. Point here Staples ’03 is that a lot of your arguments are modified by “I’m told” or “I gather.” Everybody is doing more with less in every aspect of life. Why should the education system be any different?

      Dude I don’t think any money flows back to the Board of Ed I think it stays in the departments or with the organization sponsoring the event. For example Staples Players productions cost significantly more than the Board of Ed budgets and money from tickets and program ads pays the difference.

  18. The Dude Abides

    What happens to the money raised by the various concerts performed by the music department????? Does it go back into the programs or into a general fund. I would think that such bucks would be significant???

  19. Go Staples Music!

    The concerts at Staples are free! Some people donate to the Candlelight Concerts and that money goes to the music department. It doesn’t add up to very much.

  20. The Dude Abides

    Staples Players charge, why not you all? Where do you send a donation?

  21. Staples class of '03


    Only two of my points are modified by “I gather” and “I’m told”, and both of these arguments are valid. Actually, many areas of Staples are not “doing more with less”. It is music that is consistently on the chopping block. Why is that? It may not be apparent in the elementary or middle school levels yet (thank god!) but the program is struggling! Let’s see what happens this budget season…