Princess Margaret band wins $10,000 grant

April 9, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Tabitha Wells – Music has often been called the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve seen the benefits of it, both to those who listen to it and those who play music in numerous studies over the years. Which is part of why Princess Margaret Public School (PMPS) has fought so hard to make their school band possible.

“Music teaches so many skills,” explained Laurie Heimbecker, an Intermediate teacher and band teacher at PMPS. “It can reach kids who are not academically or sport-minded, or leaders, and even those who are involved in those activities. It helps with school, but it also empowers them to feel an accomplishment just playing a little piece.”

On Friday, teachers, staff, students, family and friends celebrated the announcement that the PMPS school band had been awarded a $10,000 grant from MusiCounts, a program which helps provide funding for school bands and community music groups.

“MusiCounts is Canada’s music education charity,” explained Michael Hurley, Manager at MusiCounts to those in attendance. “What we do is provide grants all across the country for school music programs and community music-based programs so that we can ensure that every child in our country has access to music. That’s really important and I think everyone here would agree with that.”

This year, the MusiCounts grant program received applications from 300 different schools across the country. Of those 300, they were able to provide grants to schools from B.C. across to Newfoundland, up in the Arctic Circle, and of course, in Orangeville.

“We really believe very strongly in the power of music,” added Mr. Hurley. “The great thing about music is that it’s not just fun, but it helps you get smarter. You will get better grades in other subjects because it works a part of your brain that makes you better at things like math, science and English.

Although the two band teachers, Tracey Mikulik and Ms. Heimbecker, were told of the grant in early February, they were asked to keep it a secret until the official announcement was made. The news came as a great shock and surprise, after the school had applied but not been selected for the grant a few years ago.

“When we got the grant, it was like a dream,” said Ms. Heimbecker. “I’ve taught for 30 years, and we don’t normally apply for grants, so this was huge. It’s really going to help us.”

Ms. Mikulik was the one who received the good-news phone call, and couldn’t believe it. She spoke with Mr. Hurley, who congratulated her on the school being selected for one of the grants. They had applied for a $5000 grant, and was completely elated to realize what they would be able to do with the money. But they had no idea they would even be considered for the larger grant.

“I told him that he had no idea how much that would impact our band and impact our school community, being awarded such an opportunity,” she explained. “He stopped me and said that the news got better. I wasn’t thinking he meant money-wise, and just kept wondering what could be better than this.”

It was then that Mr. Hurley explained to her that the letters of support from parents, former students and members of the community which accompanied the application were the most compelling out of all the school applications, so they were being awarded the $10,000 grant.

“Getting those letters was like a gift,” added Ms. Heimbecker. “We were crying, it was just so meaningful. We said if we didn’t get the money, it would have been worth all the time and effort because we were reading all these words that empowered us to continue with the music program.”

With the grant money, the school was able to purchase 20 new percussion instruments, 17 major instruments such as trumpets and flutes, as well as repairs to current instruments, music books and extra reeds. While some students already had instruments, others had to rent them or receive help from the school when affordability was an issue.

“Having these new instruments will allow about 30 students overall to be able to use school instruments and not have to pay the rental fee for the year, which is generally about $150,” said Ms. Mikulik. “They’ll be able to use our instruments and we’ll be able to set up our own process with the students here at our school.”

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