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More funding, celebrity attention bolster Grand Rapids Public Schools’ music program

Barry Manilow
The Barry Manilow Music Project

On June 18, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education approved next year’s budget for their district.  MLive reports that although the 2012-2013 budget includes $9 million in cuts due to decreased enrollment, board members voted to allocate $990,000 to hire 11 more teachers to support increased arts education.

These additional teachers will facilitate full-year—as opposed to semester-long—art and music instruction for the district’s elementary school students.

In addition to the financial boost, students in Grand Rapids schools have also received attention from celebrities this month.

On June 14, students from City and Creston high schools in Grand Rapids accompanied the British-American rock band Foreigner on stage at the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park Amphitheater singing their hit, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

From MLive’s coverage of the rehearsal:

"Have the time of your life, this is a really an awesome opportunity," Darla Jewell, vocal music director, told the students during a two-hour practice session at a City High School, 1400 Fuller Ave. NE. "You guys have to get hyped tomorrow night." Kayleigh Davis, 17, who graduated from Creston on Saturday and has her own band, is psyched about sharing the stage with the legendary group. “It is so exciting,” said Davis, who plans to study music at Carthage College after a stint at Grand Rapids Community College. “I was only familiar with the group a little bit, but I have been pounding the song we are going to sing. I am really hoping we get to talk to them, because getting tips from such a successful band would be amazing.”

Barry Manilow, who performed the same night at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, announced a donation drive to collect instruments for Grand Rapids schools as part of the Manilow Music Project. He offered two free tickets to his concert for instrument donors.

MLive reports:

[Manilow] kicked off the effort by donating a piano. At last count, 25 instruments were donated. Music teacher Tamara Baldwin-Raglin was among those who donated. She gave [a] clarinet that she'd had since grade school and says Manilow is an inspiration. Other instruments received included a keyboard, trombone, oboe, flute and guitar.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom