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Manteca Symphony fundraiser on Feb. 13

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POSTED February 6, 2009 5:24 a.m.
There are more than 2,000 reasons to support the Symphony Comes to Manteca Committee today compared to just 175 – about 275 at the most – in previous years.

The 2,000+ figure refers to the number of students and teachers in the Manteca Unified School District who benefited from the Symphony Committee’s sponsorship last year. The much smaller latter figures refer to the range of attendance that the annual Stockton Symphony Family Concert Series in Manteca, which the committee has been sponsoring for nearly two decades, attracted through the years. Last year’s viewing audience was just 185.

So when it came down to deciding where the committee was going to put its money to get the best bang for its buck, it was a no-brainer.

Not that the committee had plenty of that to go around. The reality was that the nonprofit group felt it was no longer cost-effective for it to continue the 20-year concert tradition in Manteca in light of the rising costs involved in sponsoring the event every year compounded by dwindling contributions.

The answer to the Symphony Committee’s dilemma was “Steppin’ Out,” which also happens to be an educational program offered by the Stockton Symphony Association. “Steppin’ Out,” which has been around for a number of years, is designed for fourth- and third-grade students and, prior to November last year, it has not been offered at any of the school campuses in Manteca Unified, explained Symphony Committee Chairman Norm Knodt.

The program offers a number of educational perks for participating students.

“Each student from schools that are participating receives the ‘Steppin’ Out Times’ which is an educational piece in newspaper format that teaches about the orchestra, etiquette at concerts, and gives an educational brief of each piece to be performed at the concert by the Symphony.  A CD is also made available that contains all of the pieces to be performed so that the children will be introduced to the musical selections and have some understanding of what to expect when they arrive at the concert,” Knodt explained.

The logistics though of providing this program to the committee’s target audience in the Manteca Unified jurisdiction would be different from the Family Concert Series and would pose different logistical challenges. Instead of the Symphony coming to perform in Manteca as was the case in the Family Concert Series, under the Steppin’ Out program, the students along with their teachers and other adult chaperones would be the ones traveling to the Atherton Auditorium on the San Joaquin County Delta College campus in Stockton to enjoy the concert experience.

But first, the committee had to find out what the Manteca Unified School District officials had to say about their proposal.

“We decided to approach the MUSD administration to see if there would be interest in participating in the ‘Steppin’ Out’ program if we provided as much financial support as possible through our donations and fund-raising efforts,” Knodt said.

Knodt, along with Kara Benton, the education coordinator for the Symphony, and MUSD music educator and committee Symphony Committee member Bob Krueger met with Acting Superintendent Jason Messer and Assistant Superintendent Bob Lee and explained to them about the Steppin’ Out program. Not only did the district officials accept the proposal.

“They asked if it would be possible for all fourth graders from the district to attend!  They had been looking for something to be a district-wide program for the fourth graders as they (already) had Ag Day for the third-grade students and Science Camp for the fifth graders,” said an excited Knodt.

Subsequent follow-up meetings threshed out the rest of the logistics involved in transporting all of the fourth graders to the Steppin’ Out concert plus the cost to send 1,500 students and chaperones at a cost of $4 per student. As Knodt explained it, the approximate total cost for that trip was $6,000 for which the committee would help provide the funds.

But they were in for a pleasant surprise.

“It turned out that the actual attendance from MUSD was 2,012! The Symphony had to add an extra day to the program to accommodate all of the participants due to Manteca’s participation!” Knodt recalled.

That pleasant surprise has renewed the Manteca Symphony Committee’s effort in raising money for this new music-education venue.

Explained Knodt, “The committee decided to forego the family concert due to poor attendance over the last several years. The goal of the committee all along has been to introduce children to symphonic music. We have been attempting to do that by holding the family concert and reducing the ticket prices for adults and, for a good many years, not charging at all for the children.”

The detour taken by the committee in reaching their mission has turned out to be for the best, Knodt happily noted.

“The benefit to making this change is that instead of having 200 to 250 attendees at the family concert as we have had the last few years, we now are able to provide an actual instructional exposure to the symphony for all of the fourth-grade students in (the school district). This program is done as a field trip for all of the students in the fourth grade.  As I mentioned previously, the attendance at the concert in November was 2,012 students, teachers and chaperones. We feel that this is considerably more beneficial than what we were accomplishing with the family concert.”

The downside though is that “we don’t have a local concert here in Manteca,” he said.

“The family concert program used to be provided by the Stockton Symphony for Stockton, Lodi, Tracy, and Manteca.  Lodi dropped out of the program several years ago and for 2009 the program has been completely suspended” due to financial reasons and poor attendance, he said.

But Knodt remains optimistic.

“We are hopeful that through the ‘Steppin’ Out’ program we will be introducing enough young people to symphonic music that there will possibly be enough demand in the future to bring the family concerts back to Manteca,” he said.

To help the Manteca Symphony Committee reach its financial goals, either make a donation or attend its annual fundraiser which is taking place Friday, Feb. 13, in the Tasting Room at Delicato Vineyards. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with wine and other non-alcoholic beverages, hot hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The entertainment for the evening will be provided by music educators from the school district, with the featured performance by Maestro Peter Jaffee, the music director of the Stockton Symphony. There will also be raffle prizes.

For more information about the fund-raiser, visit www.mantecamusic.org or www.mantecausd.net. Tickets at $35 each are available by contacting Delicato Vineyards at 824-3401. Proceeds of this and future fund-raisers will be used to assist in covering the cost involved in making it possible for all Manteca Unified fourth graders to take part in the Steppin’ Out program each year.
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