The Grand County High School marching band performed during Moab BandAid at the Moab Farmers' Market held at Swanny Park on Thursday, Aug. 22. Moab BandAid raised over 00 for the high school band. [Photo courtesy]

The Moab Music Festival in its 21st year is working toward providing resources for music education for Grand County schools.

During the festival in coming weeks, special performances will be held at the schools, featuring world-class musicians. But the festival has taken an additional step toward providing funds for the Grand County High School marching band and the Moab Strings Program.

The marching band held a fundraiser at the Moab Farmers Market on Thursday, Aug. 22. With the help of Moab Music Festival’s artist-in-residence Christopher Layer, they were able to raise over $700 to help fund new instruments and uniforms for coming years.

The event, called Moab BandAid, featured performances from the high school marching band, the Community Dance Band and players from the Fiery Furnace Marching Band.

“Our goal for Moab BandAid is strictly to raise funds for the high school marching band,” Layer said.

While the high school had a marching band historically, it had not had one for nearly 20 years until teacher Ryan Morrill chose to bring it back. Only six or seven kids showed up for band class when he arrived.

“Within a year he had 50 students,” said Don McGuire, the high school’s current band teacher. “And he had 12 kids in the marching band.”

The band now has 23 students. Last year it placed in several competitions and took first at Colorado West band competition held in Grand Junction last October.

McGuire said the money came at the most fortuitous time.

As the band has grown, so has the drumline. The money raised at the Moab Farmers Market will allow them to buy another drum.

In addition, the Moab Music Festival donated an additional $1000, that allowed McGuire to purchase a sousaphone and a vibraphone.

“Moab Music Festival is my hero,” he said.

Moab Music Festival also provided funding for BEACON’s Moab Strings Program, which will begin its second year with five classes at three Moab school campuses.

The Moab Strings Program began last year with 28 beginning violin, viola, and cello students at the Helen M. Knight Elementary (HMK) and the Moab Charter School. This year, 37 students will participate in classes at HMK and Moab Charter School. There will also be a Secondary Strings Class, for middle school and high school students at Grand County High School. With higher enrollment and interest, growth within this program seemed inevitable.

However, with significant budgetary cuts in the BEACON Program, it seemed unlikely that funding would be possible for growth in the Moab Strings Program. However, on July 19, Laura Brown, executive director of the Moab Music Festival, announced that the Moab Music Festival Outreach Committee had approved support of $2054 for the BEACON Moab Strings Program for the 2013/2014 school year.

“Every year we budget a little bit into our budget to help with educational needs, we kind of plan ahead to do that, education initiative comes from our benefit concert sales, our benefit concert has a tax donation built in that is designed for our community outreach and education outreach,” Brown said. “We also have grants that specifically help our education initiative and outreach. There are also dual action grants that not only fund the festival but also our educational outreach.”

In 2011 the Moab Music Festival board discussed possible funding for the education programs in the community. The program didn’t require monetary help until this year due to the extended growth and interest in the program.

“Without this help in funding, there was just no way to grow the program” said Nanci Flesher, director of the Moab Strings Program. “We were able to grow the program from three classes to five. And, we already have students on a waiting list for next year. There are two new Moab Strings Program teachers.”

“Usually towns this size don’t have string programs. It is really neat to be able to help that along here and that there are people here in Moab to help that program and for that is the exciting part,” Brown said.

In 2011 the Moab Music Festival board helped raise money to fund a position at HMK elementary school for a certified music teacher as opposed to a non-certified music teacher.

“We want our kids to get the very best music teaching education that they possibly can, so that initiative was a big thing for us and a big deal,” Brown said.

The festival is also happy to support the Moab Strings Program.

“Nanci has done important work with her students and we are very impressed with the growth of the program especially in a town the size of Moab,” Brown said. “Much of our chamber music at the Festival is string instrument based, so partnering with the strings program, to educate the future string players and concert goers of tomorrow, is a win-win for us both.”

Flesher already has a full performance schedule for the students in the program. The school year for Moab String Program will began with a Day Camp, Monday, Aug. 12, at the Grand County High School, for returning Moab Strings Program and new secondary musicians.

Parent nights, for new Moab Strings Program students at the HMK and Moab Charter School campuses will be scheduled soon, Flesher said.

The 23 returning and secondary students will begin the season by performing a piece for the Moab Music Festival’s concert at Old City Park at 2 p.m., Monday, Sept. 2. The concert is free and open to the public.

“People in the town need to come out and support these performances, it’s really a two-pronged effort, not only to raise funds for the public school students and for the music programs but also to raise awareness in the community. Music is an integral part in a healthy society; music should be an integral part in a healthy public school education,” Layer said.

Brown hopes the result will be possible performers in the future but most importantly concert going attendees.

“It is a hope of every arts organization that you will help foster students and children into adulthood that they will have music. Whatever they become you always hope that you can foster some love of music and they continue to go to concerts and continue to support their favorite music,” Brown said.

“I am just so thankful to the Moab Music Festival for helping make it possible to have classes on three campuses to provide string instruction for the children of Moab,” Flesher said.