Stanley's Jazz Messengers performing for the Lafayette City Council.
It’s been an exciting year for Stanley Middle School’s music program, with the school’s instrumental and choral groups receiving awards and accolades both locally and nationally.
Stanley’s Jazz Messengers tied for second place for outstanding performance in the esteemed jazz publication Downbeat magazine’s 40th annual student music awards. Since 2002, Stanley has won several individual solo and group awards from Downbeat.
Closer to home, the city of Lafayette recently proclaimed May 22, 2017 to be Stanley Jazz Messenger Day to honor the group’s hard work and talent.
Meanwhile, the California Music Educators Association awarded the Stanley Chorus three “superior” ratings at the recent California Music Educators Association Festival. Three adjudicators listened, made comments, and rated the Chorus 84, 88, and 88 points out of 100. By the end of a provided clinic, the Chorus also earned a “command performance” the highest rating for any middle school chorus.
The exciting year is a culmination of the hard work that all of the music students have put in this year under the direction of Bob Athayde, Stanley’s Director of Music Education, along with Loretta McNulty, the Director of String Orchestra and Intermediate Strings and Ginni Reynolds, the program’s executive assistant.
Countless LPIE music instructors, parent volunteers and community members have also played a huge part in the music program’s success by providing additional teaching support and assistance to the musical department.
“I like to think of Stanley Music as a place of possibilities,” says Bob Athayde (pictured at left). “It’s a place where kids can discover their passion for music and run with it.”
LPIE provides funding that augments Lafayette School District funds for K-8 music teachers and also hires music aides and mentors for grades K-12. These LPIE instructors allow the students to have differentiated instruction and get more personalized attention. This year, 239 students are participating in Stanley’s music program.
Stanley’s LPIE instructors include: Suzanne Chasalow, Tommy Davidson, Xiomara DiMaio, Rich Fongheiser, Laurel Hall, Eric Price, Alex Murzyn, Pat Schiedler, Allen Smith and John Trombetta. LPIE’s chamber music mentors for Stanley are: Jane Frances Lee, Pamela Freund-Striplen, Rosemarie Krovoza and Stacey Bauer.
Stanley’s incredibly rich music program consists of one chorus, four bands: the Cadet, Bronze, Silver, and Symphonic bands and two Jazz Ensembles: The Crusaders and The Messengers. The strings program includes the String Orchestra and Intermezzo Strings.
The community’s involvement in the Stanley music program has been impressive, with volunteers coming to help out the students during their practice times. One such volunteer, Kerwin Lee, who provides musical arrangements, photography and assists the students musicians, received an Honorary Service Award from the Stanley PTA meeting for his extraordinary volunteerism to the music department.
Sarah Wasley-Smith, a flute player and artist whose husband Allan volunteers with the band, has been doing drawings of the musicians that are shown at concerts. Other valuable helpers include: Linda Tejada, Anouschka Wardy, Dave Bricceti and Lissa Resnick who contribute countless hours to the program.
Visiting professional musicians have also lent a hand and performed for the young musicians. In April, the Air Force Band of The Golden West sent their Jazz Quartet to play with and for the Stanley Jazz Messengers and the Bands during the school day. In January, Bob Turre, Trombone player for the Saturday Night Live band, came to work with the students.
The buzz over the musical department can be seen anywhere from the early morning jazz practices, where students, faculty, and members of the public meet in the Stanley music room to play and listen to music and drink coffee to the many community concerts the students perform.
Most recently, the Lafayette Rotary Club sponsored the Concert at the Res at the Lafayette Reservoir, where Stanley music students played just steps away from the children’s playground while residents picnicked under the trees. Stanley students performed with students from Westlake Middle School in Oakland, which often collaborates with the Stanley program.
One of the more exciting concerts of the year is Stanley’s Jazz Café on Friday, June 2nd. The school’s multi-purpose room will be transformed into a jazz club for the annual fundraising event, where parents, friends, and community members can join at tables to listen to fabulous live jazz, mingle, and eat great food.
Perhaps the most meaningful legacy of Stanley’s music program is the impact that it has had on students and their families. The camaraderie among the musicians and the lessons learned has made a powerful impression on the community.
“Being part of this special Stanley community is to learn not only what it takes to be a unique and skilled musician, but also how to participate in a group creation; something far greater than the sum of its parts,” says Merry Sturtz, grandmother of 7th grade silver band member, Annalise Harhay.
“Jazz has changed my life in terms of what I want to do in the future, where I might want go to school, and what I want to study,” says 8th grader Henry Rogers. “A big part of what made jazz so life-changing for me is Mr. Athayde and the opportunities and support that he has provided me through jazz band.”