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Tying T-shirts for the middle school band

I’m spending my Saturday afternoon at our local farmers market. But I’m not shopping for organic peaches, apricots and nectarines, though I hope to have time near the end of the day to do that. Instead, I’m sitting behind a large table, folding T-shirts into little bundles tied with color-coded yarn: blue is for small, green is for medium (but there aren’t any mediums left), purple is for large and yellow is for extra large.

My fingers are swollen from weeding and planting my own organic veggies and herbs. Swiss chard and lettuces bolted after the first hot spell, heirloom tomatoes and squash are having a slow start, but red cabbage is thriving. Anyway, my knobby fingers are struggling with the yarn tying but, hey, this isn’t brain surgery.

Putting up the collapsible tent thingy without directions borders on rocket science, but the nice fruit vendor offers to help. Bless him and all his plums and peaches.

Then there are these burlap flags, painted by local kids, parents and even a few real artists, that have to be hung from the tent frame with little bungee things. And the kits to make more flags have to be set out beside a large coffee can for raffle tickets and a small jar for random donations. I put in a dollar bill to give people the idea, those who have no interest in T-shirts and flag kits.

I’m wishing this were a used book exchange or a bake sale. More up my alley, so to speak.

I’m not even sure how I got here. I’m a journalist, for Pete’s sake. Journalists don’t do anything, they just write about what other people do. Sometimes they try to inspire other people to do things, like volunteer for worthy causes. Well, several folks wrote in the local paper five weeks in a row and didn’t inspire squat. Everybody seems to think someone else has got it handled. Oh, they don’t need Moi to volunteer.

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What’s happening in our little community is the same thing that’s happening all over the state (and other states, for all I know), which can’t balance the budget because the federal government can’t balance its budget (and still give away tax cuts to people who don’t need them but are willing to finance political campaigns). And at the bottom of the food chain are the school districts, which for sure can’t balance their budgets without cutting programs and teachers. So much for leaving no child behind.

Naturally the first thing to go is always music because it’s deemed by the pedagogues to be “unessential.” Never mind that it’s the one thing that can inspire children to keep up with their scholastic work, that’s scientifically proven to boost math scores. Never mind that children having a hard time with English can find the universal language of music. Never mind that learning to play an instrument can lift a child’s spirits, particularly one who is struggling to find something they can do as well as those who are quicker with academics. If it’s “unessential” it’s gone.

The Santa Monica-Malibu School District faced the same problem and probably the same solution. But parents found that unacceptable. Hence the passage of Measure S, a parcel tax that will reinstate the teachers of “unessential” classes.

Our mountain communities have no such measure to vote on. Instead, the Forest Arts Coalition, a local nonprofit spearheaded by Lori Smith, a woman with a master’s degree from Julliard, no less, has vowed to raise $60,000 the district says it needs to reinstate the teacher who taught basic instrumental skills and directed the middle school band. That’s a ton of money for even a wealthy city to come up with. And not many folks up here are getting that tax credit. For this rural area to make even a fraction of that before the Sept. 1 deadline seems overwhelming. But Lori Smith is not overwhelmed. When she told me what they were trying to do, I caved. Journalist or not, I volunteered to set up the booth at the farmers market for the next seven Saturdays so Lori can run the children’s concert series at Pine Mountain Club.

On Monday, I’m going to a meeting of the Forest Arts Coalition to see what else we can do to get this music teacher reinstated and keep the band program going. My grandson, who has had significant success with soprano and tenor recorders, thanks to his third-grade teacher, will be crushed if there’s no band next term. He’s even willing to donate the money he earned for getting a straight A report card.

I’m straining my brain to come up with new fund-raising ideas. This is not my best thing. And let’s get real here, car washes and bake sales just aren’t going to cut it. The take for last Saturday’s market caper was a slim $50, which Lori says is about average. Besides, my brain and my fingers are still numb from tying up all those T-shirts.

There’s got to be a better way.

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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