Holiday Spirit

Folk dance teacher Michel Hardbarger, center, teaches students from Los Robles Magnet Academy in East Palo Alto the steps to a line dance to Israeli folk dance song "Hineh Ma Tov", as part of the Music in the Schools program. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted December 7, 2018

Making music a priority
Music in the Schools is instrumental in bringing free music classes to Ravenswood

by Karla Kane

On a drizzly December afternoon, more than 25 children gathered in the cafeteria/gymnasium at Los Robles Magnet Academy in East Palo Alto. With rapt attention they shook their arms, clapped their hands and stretched their necks and shoulders to the ever-accelerating tempo of the Ghanaian call-and-response song "Che Che Kule." Moving to the African rhythms was a warm up for their weekly international folk dance class, a new, free, after-school program offered by Music in the Schools Foundation.

"Would everyone find a partner? We're going to make a giant circle," instructor Michel Hardbarger, who leads the class with a gentle, calming presence, said to her group of elementary school children. To the sounds of Israeli music, the dancers took turns spinning with their partners, mimicking a dreidel, in honor of Hanukkah.

When the classes first started, Hardbarger recalled with a laugh, the kids were reluctant to partner up and hold hands. "I tell them, 'You don't have to bring them home with you. It's just a dance!'"

As the hour-long class went on, the choreography increased in complexity, with the children dutifully mouthing the directions along with Hardbarger as they worked on step sequences, pivots and more.

"They're not just learning dance but also about other cultures and each other," Program Director Kyle Sofman said of the successful pilot program, which keeps gaining members through word of mouth.

Though international folk dance is a new offering this year, along with a percussion class for eighth-graders who might otherwise have been left out of their school's music curriculum, Music in the Schools has been providing free general and specialized music classes to students in the Ravenswood City School District for more than 20 years. It currently serves more than 500 children in preschool through eighth grade at four sites in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.

Some of their classes are offered during school, "filling in the gaps," as Sofman put it, between the chronically underfunded district's own music courses. Others are offered as free after-school enrichment, something much needed in a district where some parents work long hours and students often stay on campus until 6 p.m. The overall goal is to ensure that all Ravenswood students receive music instruction that meets or exceeds California State Visual and Performing arts (VAPA) standards. Students also get opportunities to perform for the community, helping to build their self-esteem while they reap the artistic, social and cognitive benefits of arts education.

Most Music in the Schools instructors have several teaching gigs to make ends meet (local luminaries on the team include Thomas Shoebotham, director of the Palo Alto Philharmonic). The nonprofit's teachers also sometimes take on multiple types of classes within the program. Hardbarger, for example, at the request of students, has led a ukulele club for fourth- and fifth-graders at Willow Oaks.

Keeping things going, though, is an ongoing struggle, even though the foundation doesn't operate from a central office, which helps keep costs down.

A $5,000 grant received from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund in 2018 came at an especially critical time, as the program recently lost several important sources of funding, including the Peery Foundation, the Palo Alto Community Fund grants and the Ravenswood City School District itself because of continued financial instability in the district (in 2015-16, the district provided $40,000).

"We've lost a lot of funding, and we still have to pay teachers and maintain instruments. Our money comes from the kindness of donors, and we are grateful for every penny we get," Sofman said.

At the same time as the folk dance class at Las Robles, in a music room across the quad, the after-school beginning strings ensemble was working on a Suzuki piece. Students on cellos, violas and violins rehearsed under the enthusiastic, high-energy guidance of experienced teacher Shelly Monarez. As they rehearsed, she accompanied them on piano, calling out tips — "Feet flat on the floor! Your violin goes on your shoulder!" — and shouting encouragement.

The program not only gives students high-quality lessons in music but, like the dance class, offers lessons in arts diversity.

"The strings teacher incorporates music from a variety of cultures too. It's important for these kids to know their cultures matter — it's not just (by) a bunch of dead white guys," Sofman said.

Toward the end of the lesson, Monarez asked the group, which has only been meeting since October, to try playing along to a recording.

"That was so fun!" one young violinist exclaimed afterward.

Monarez beamed: "Wasn't it, though?"

Sofman and the rest of the Music in the Schools team are making hopeful plans for the future. Sofman said she would love to start a choir, which, as she pointed out, is quite cost efficient since not much equipment is needed. She'd also like to see the popular folk dance program expanded to other sites and/or other times so that more children could have access to it.

Back in the dance class, the kids wrapped things up with an Israeli song about jungle animals, which involved mimicking the slithering motion of a snake. Though the class was originally intended for second-to-fifth graders, a few first-graders have since joined and seem to be keeping up just fine.

"Just do the best you can," Hardbarger told the newest members of the group. She paused and smiled. "And have a good time!"

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2019 Grant Recipients

49ers Academy
Academic and social support services for East Palo Alto students attending Menlo-Atherton High School$5,000

Able Works
Financial literacy education for high school students at East Palo Alto Academy, Oxford Day Academy and Menlo-Atherton High School$5,000

Ada's Café
Training and support of developmentally disabled employees and high school student interns$5,000

Adolescent Counseling Services
Outlet Program providing support services and counseling for LGBTQ+ youth$7,500

Aim High for High School
Summer academic program for East Palo Alto middle school students aimed at preparing them for a successful high school experience$5,000

All Students Matter
Expansion of literacy intervention program focused on 3rd-5th grade students in Ravenswood school district$15,000

Art in Action
Art education program serving more than 650 students in grades K-8 at three schools in the Ravenswood school district$5,000

Art of Yoga
Yoga, creative art and other mindfulness activities for more than 500 juvenile girls in the criminal justice system$5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries
Academic "Create" summer camp providing STEAM-focused classes and activities for Ravenswood district middle school students$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Support for Match Support Specialists who oversee and coach the adult volunteers matched with children$5,000

Buena Vista Homework Club
Homework center for elementary and middle school aged youth living at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park$10,000

CASSY
School-based free mental health services to students and families in five Ravenswood elementary and middle schools$10,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Legal assistance to East Palo Alto residents facing eviction and other rental housing problems and conflicts$10,000

Downtown Streets Team
Funding for a Case Management Flex Fund to help team members pay for fees and other expenses that are necessary to pursue housing, employment and other opportunities$7,500

DreamCatchers
General support for after-school tutoring program serving low-income Palo Alto middle school students$20,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation
Peer leadership program to develop mentors and motivate high school students to participate in STEM-focused "Dream Lab"$7,500

East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS)
Science program at K-5 elementary charter school$7,500

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Educator Micro Grants Program, providing $600 grants to Ravenswood school district teachers for classroom supplies and field trips$10,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Development of math tutoring curriculum for underperforming 1st to 8th graders$10,000

Environmental Volunteers
Monthly public environmental education programs for youth and adults$5,000

Family Connections
Early childhood education program supporting parents of preschoolers through 3rd grade in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.$5,000

Fit Kids Foundation
Physical activity program for children 4-13 in East Palo Alto$5,000

Foundation for a College Education
College Knowledge middle and high school program designed to prepare students and their families to pursue a college education$7,500

Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
Science Outreach Program providing hands on science instruction in Ravenswood school district$5,000

Get Involved Palo Alto
Service-learning internship placement program for high school students wanting to work with low-income youth$5,000

Hidden Villa
Summer camp scholarships$5,000

Jasper Ridge Farm
Farm animal visits to Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Kara
Spanish language grief support program$7,500

KIPP Valiant Community Prep
Mental health counseling services at public charter school in East Palo Alto$3,000

La Comida
Support for newly opened downtown senior lunch program$7,500

Live in Peace
"Gap Year Project" to guide and support at-risk high school graduates unprepared or uncertain about careers or college$7,500

Marine Science Institute
Underwriting of environmental and marine science education program for K-12 low-income students$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation
Music education in Ravenswood school district$5,000

New Creation Home Ministries
Parenting and life skills classes for teen mothers in East Palo Alto$5,000

New Voices for Youth
Video production equipment and training for middle school students at the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto$3,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation
Cultural Kaleidoscope, an arts-education program pairing Palo Alto and East Palo Alto students and using professional artists$5,000

Palo Alto Housing
Workshops for high school students and parents residing in subsidized housing on college and career options and financial planning$5,000

Palo Alto Music Connection
Volunteer student-run group providing free music lessons to Ravenswood middle school students$5,000

Peninsula HealthCare Connection
Mobile "Backpack Medicine" program to reach area homeless who need but do not seek out medical care$7,500

Peninsula Volunteers
Meals on Wheels program serving 13,000 meals to low-income clients in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park$5,000

Project WeHOPE
Classes and counseling to support the homeless in East Palo Alto$15,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Purchase of school uniforms and other clothing for homeless and low-income students in Ravenswood school district$7,500

Rebuilding Together Peninsula
Safe at Home home repair program serving low-income home owners in East Palo Alto$5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
After school debate program at East Palo Alto Academy, Oxford Day Academy and College Track and Summer Debate Institute$5,000

St. Elizabeth Seton School
New and updated science text books for K-5 classrooms$10,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
After school literacy and enrichment program for 3rd through 5th graders in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park$5,000

TheatreWorks
TheatreWorks for Schools arts education program for grades K-12$5,000

YMCA East Palo Alto
Summer "Full STEAM Ahead" program for high school students, combining academic curriculum with recreational outings$10,000

YMCA Ross Road
Five-week summer enrichment camp for low-income elementary school students who are required to attend PAUSD summer school$5,000

Youth Community Service
Support of Summer of Service day camp scholarships, service clubs at local middle and high schools, service days and life skills programs for at-risk teens$20,000

Youth Speaks Out
Expressive arts program enabling marginalized teens whose voices may not be otherwise heard to collaborate on artistic projects with each other and supportive adults.$12,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Friends of Preschool Family
Playground improvements, including outdoor musical instruments and raised planting bed$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
Raised planter boxes and new irrigation system in play yard$5,000

The Learning Center
Continued construction of outdoor classroom, including water table, raised beds and outdoor musical instruments$5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Outdoor garden learning classroom at Thacher Children's Center$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
Outdoor teacher work station$5,000

Parents Nursery School
Maintenance of outdoor play structures, including replacement of old tires with building blocks$5,000

As of Jan 8, 2019,
370 donors have contributed $401,365.
* indicates amount withheld

28 Anonymous121,525
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Jerry & Linda Elkind500
Donald & Virginia Fitton25
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Roger V. Smith300
Edie Kirkwood*
Cynthia Costell100
Anna & Chris Saccheri1,000
Eric Keller & Janice Bohman250
Diana Diamond150
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Peter Beller & Nadine Dabby*
Carol Kersten300
Linda Groffie-Balint150
Michal Sadoff100
Ellen Krasnow*
Meri Gruber & James Taylor250
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Erika Buck100
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Jocelyn Dong*
Spreng Family200
Susan D. Osofsky200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian100
John & Lee Pierce250
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft*
Don & Dee Price*
Anne & Don Vermeil*
John & Mary Schaefer100
Judy Ousterhout*
Ellen Lillington300
B & D Fryberger100
Stewart & Carol Hansen100
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Richard & Tish Fagin100
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Al & Joanne Russell300
Harry & Susan Hartzell100
Frances Codispoti500
Hal & Carol Louchheim400
Herbert Fischgrund200
Diane & Brandy Sikic*
Karen Backer500
Rosalie Shepherd100
David Thom200
Sylvia McGovern100
Lawrence Dong50
Annette Isaacson100
Pamela Wong25
Barbara Kinsey500
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Elgin & Elizabeth Lee500
Weil Family1,000
Epstein Family500
Kenyon Family500
Ellmann Family100
Helene Pier*
David & Virginia Pollard150
Diane Finkelstein200
Elizabeth Shepard*
Nancy Moss*
Rita Vrhel300
Virginia Laibl500
Barbara Klein & Stan Schrier*
Paul Kingston Duffie50
Carol Hubenthal50
Steve & Virginia Morgan50
Barbara Noparstak & Duane Bay100
Judith & Hans Steiner150
Marc & Margaret Cohen250
Dennis & Cindy Dillon*
Carol Gilbert*
Jane Holland*
Mike & Lennie Roberts200
Hoda Epstein*
Larry Breed200
Colleen Anderson250
Elizabeth Bechtel100
Peter Giles125
Georgie Gleim500
Jeremy Platt & Sondra Murphy*
Jean Doble*
George Chippendale50
Robert Stevens200
Richard Mazze100
Sandy Liu100
Charles Katz400
Richard N Ellson100
Kathryn & A.C. Johnston100
Claire Lauing250
Alice Evarts500
Carol O'Neill25
Reed Content200
Nancy Peterson100
Joanne Koltnow100
Susan Elgee & Steve Eglash500
Liz Kok*
Werner Graf*
Vincent Steckler500
Norm & Nancy Rossen*
Debra Satz & Don Barr*
John & Lynn Wiese150
Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan1,000
Delle Maxwelll2,500
Steve & Gayle Brugler1,000
Andy & Eva Dobrov150
Kate & Marvin Feinstein200
Scott Pearson500
Marilyn, Dale, Rick & Mei Simbeck*
Bruce & Mary Beth Train250
Sherry Brown250
Charlie Williams125
Jonathan Macquitty & Laurie Hunter1,000
Gavin & Patricia Christensen*
Ralph Britton200
Barbara Allen100
Veronica Tincher*
Kay Sabin*
Leannah Hunt250
Marilee & Sam Anderson100
Chen & Lee Family300
Teresa Roberts1,000
Mr. & Mrs. John J. McLaughlin100
Ellen King200
Patricia Levin100
Joan Norton*
Susan Bartalo & David Fischer150
In Memory Of

Er-Ying & Yen-Chen Yen250
Janet Hermsen200
Ray Bacchetti250
Nancy & Bob Lobdell*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Tracy & Alan Herrick100
Bob Fenster*
David, Zoe & Ken100
Mrs. Nancy Yih*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Corrine Aulgur*
Duncan Matteson250
Pam Grady300
Elliot Eisner*
Nate Rosenberg200
Francine Mendlin250
Bob Donald*
Bill Land*
Emmett Lorey*
Ted Linden200
Marie & Don Snow150
Ben Barres100
Kathleen Morris*
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
August L. King*
Julia Schwartz*
Lee Domenik*
Marts Beekley, M.D.*
Margaret McAvity - "Granny"*
Carol Berkowitz*
Don Kenyon100
Judge Bart Phelps*
Ernest J. Moore200
Jacques, Nancy, Wanda & Jimmy George*
Sally Landy & Betty Meltzer50
Mary Floyd & Susan Thomas50
Jack Sutorius300
Jim & Dottie Mellberg200
Robert Spinrad*
Boyd Paulson Jr.*
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Samuel Benjamin Kurland300
David Mitchell200
Gary A Fry250
Lindsey Draper100
Abe & Helen Klein50
Dave Mitchell100
Bob Markevitch*
Tinney Family250
Marshall Carrick*
In Honor Of

Melissa Baten Caswell*
Lucy Berman's clients2,500
Jill200
Scott200
Polly200
Hayley200
Jake200
Garrett200
Gil200
Joe Simitian*
Marilyn Sutorius300
Physicians, Kaiser RWC*
Shapiro Family500
As a Gift For

Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez1,000
Businesses/Organizations

Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run & Walk69,110
Sponsors of Moonlight Run
    Stanford Hospital & Clinics10,000
    Wilson Rosati Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
    Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
    Stanford Federal Credit Union5,000
    Palantir5,000
    DeLeon Realty5,000
    Wealth Architects5,000
    Facebook5,000
    Kaiser Permanente5,000
    Lakin Spears2,000
    Bank of the West1,000
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Bleibler Properties1,000
Communications & Power Industries500
deLemos Properties200
Palo Alto Business Park*
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000