New Grants Support Music and the Fine Arts in Local Public Schools

viola-picEdison Middle School student Soumyota Sen plays a new viola purchased with funds from Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation’s The Gift of Music grant program.

Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation is partnering with Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana School District #116 to pilot two new grant programs—The Gift of Music and A Gift for the Fine Arts. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, nine music teachers in Champaign Unit 4 and three elementary fine arts teachers in Urbana School District #116 were awarded more than $8,000 for special projects this school year.

The Gift of Music ‘s goal is to support and enhance K-12 music education in Champaign Unit 4 schools, and A Gift for the Fine Arts’ goal is support and enhance fine arts education in Urbana School District #116 elementary schools.  Both grant programs have a spring and fall application window. A selection committee reviews proposals and recipients are announced in May and December.  Activities considered for funding include student attendance at a performance, guest artist or artist-in-residence programs, instrument purchase, fine arts focused field trips or school related performances.

Spring recipients of The Gift of Music and A Gift for the Fine Arts grant programs were announced last week and projects include a performance of Opera for the Young at Dr. Howard Elementary in Champaign and a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago for 5th grade art students at Dr. Williams in Urbana.

Earlier this year, Champaign Unit 4 strings teacher Curtis Viselli received funds from The Gift of Music to purchase two cellos and two violas for the strings programs at Bottenfield Elementary and Edison Middle School. “Many of the students involved in school music programs are not able to provide their own instruments. With an increase in student numbers we were running short on school-owned instruments to rent out. With the instruments we purchased, we met our goals for student inclusion and no one was turned away from an orchestra class if they were not able to provide an instrument.”

gift-of-music-picStudents notice a difference in the sound quality of the new instruments. According to Edison cellist Jade Cadman, the new cello is much better than the old one. “It sounds really nice. The old ones needed to be tuned a lot. You can tune this one faster, which gives you more time to practice.” Cadman claims the new instrument has an impact on her performance. “When you walk out on the stage with a shiny instrument, you just feel confident, like you are going to nail it.” Violist Soumyota Sen agrees. “With my old instrument, the sound just kind of faded away.”

Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation is working with the donor to create two permanent endowments to continue support for the arts in each school district. So far this year, Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation has awarded over $30,000 in classroom grants. The mission of the Foundation is to build a stronger community by developing and supporting innovative programs to make all C-U public school students college/career ready. For more information call 217-398-2873 or contact Patricia Dessen, or Molly Delaney,