May 30, 2001
Contact: John Newman (831) 459-2496; firstname.lastname@example.org
UCSC GRADUATE IS NAMED ARTS EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SANTA CRUZ, CA--"He really loved that trombone," Gino Raugi recalls.
"He used to carry it around whether he had a lesson or not. I used to let him
practice in my classroom during lunch break. But once they cut the music program,
you didn't see him with it anymore."
That's when Raugi, himself a former music major before he became an elementary school
teacher, decided it was time to take matters into his own hands--a decision that
eventually led to his being named "Arts Educator of the Year" in 2001 by
the Santa Cruz County Cultural Council.
Branciforte School wasn't alone in cutting its music program back in the early '90s.
Schools across the state have been forced by budget woes to make hard choices, and
in most of them the arts programs were the first to feel the axe. In an effort to
keep some form of music education in the curriculum, Santa Cruz City Schools instituted
a "pay-to-play" program--essentially requiring students to finance their
own musical education out-of-pocket and stay long hours after school in pursuit of
their music education. Better than nothing, perhaps, but for students like Raugi's
trombone player, it wasn't much help.
"He told me his parents couldn't afford it," Raugi says, "so he had
to give it up. I told him not to worry about it, I'd get him in somehow."
Raugi found his promise more difficult to keep than he'd imagined. There wasn't any
room in the cash-strapped program for even one nonpaying student. Raugi couldn't
get a place for his trombonist. It was a bitter disappointment, but the implications
went well beyond any particular student. Well intentioned as it might have been,
the pay-to-play program effectively blocked all economically disadvantaged students
from participating in music education, regardless of their aptitude or desire to
play. For Raugi, the situation was unacceptable--particularly since Branciforte Elementary
had the highest level of socio-economically disadvantaged students in the district.
"That's when I decided to start an orchestra," Raugi says.
He began by taking a survey of the students to gauge interest in an orchestra class,
and hopefully provide him with something he could take to school administrators to
help make his case for a school orchestra. He was surprised by the results. Of the
600 students he surveyed, 300 expressed interest in being in the orchestra. The school
administrators were impressed, too, but that didn't help the funding situation. They
approved the idea of an orchestra class, but Raugi would have to find his own financing.
He applied for a number of small local grants and then set about rounding up some
instruments. The school district owned some, leftover from its now defunct music
program, but they were in a sorry state of disrepair.
"I spent most of an entire summer in the district warehouse, sorting through
those beat-up old instruments, working on them--cannibalizing some for parts. By
the end of the summer, I had just enough for a small orchestra," Raugi recalls.
About 60 students showed up for the first orchestra class, and about 40 stuck with
it. That number has remained fairly constant since 1993, the year the orchestra was
launched. Once Raugi got his first grant from the Cabrillo Music Foundation, he was
able to hire additional teachers to complement his own orchestra class with individual
lessons after school. The program began to gather momentum. Eventually he managed
to get a substantial grant from the Packard Foundation that enabled him to buy additional
When UCSC began its Arts Bridge program in the fall of 1999, Raugi's budding orchestra
was in its sixth year--and the two were a perfect match. The Arts Bridge program
provides undergraduate interns to K-12 schools that have been forced to cut, or abandon,
their arts education. Schools may request an existing Arts Bridge program or design
one to meet their particular needs. Interns work with supervising teachers to design
lesson plans for each project. Raugi's interns helped coach sectionals in his orchestra,
mentored individual students, taught private lessons, and eventually began taking
over some of the conducting chores, as well.
"They were a godsend," Raugi says. "They've really made a difference
in this music program."
Although Raugi's original orchestra was composed exclusively of strings, it has now
expanded to include winds, percussion, and the full orchestral complement. But for
Raugi, it is a bittersweet kind of success--there are no music programs in junior
high or high school once his young musicians graduate from Branciforte. It was a
problem very much on his mind even before he had accepted his Arts Educator of the
Year Award. "That's got to be the next project," he declared.
How an elementary school teacher goes about building music programs in junior high
and high schools isn't clear, but that doesn't seem to discourage Raugi. "It's
just another obstacle," he says.
Heads up to whoever is in charge over at the high school district warehouse: Dust
off those old instruments!
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