Northeast Times

It’s music to their ears

A gen­er­ous dona­tion from a fin­an­cial gi­ant strikes the right chords at a charter school.

The First Phil­adelphia Pre­par­at­ory Charter School wind en­semble presen­ted a short per­form­ance in the aud­it­or­i­um on the morn­ing of Dec. 8, with vis­it­ors en­joy­ing the sounds from their seats.

“They just thought they were play­ing a com­munity con­cert for guests,” said in­stru­ment­al mu­sic teach­er Mat­thew Ack­iewicz.

Even the pres­ence of the tele­vi­sion news cam­er­as didn’t give away the big secret.

“We’ve got a little bit of a sur­prise for all of you,” said Lauren Dale, vice pres­id­ent and branch man­ager for Fi­del­ity In­vest­ments’ Phil­adelphia In­vestor Cen­ter. “Do you like sur­prises?”

The stu­dents might have been a little sur­prised that some of the guests walked out of the aud­it­or­i­um mid-per­form­ance, but that was a good thing.

“Fi­del­ity, come on in,” Dale said in sum­mon­ing her col­leagues.

The stu­dents watched from the stage as Fi­del­ity of­fi­cials walked back in­to the aud­it­or­i­um car­ry­ing brand new band and or­ches­tra in­stru­ments with bows on them.

The routine as­sembly had turned in­to an ex­cit­ing event, as Fi­del­ity In­vest­ments se­lec­ted First Phil­adelphia, at 4300 Ta­cony St., as a be­ne­fi­ciary of its on­go­ing ef­forts to sup­port arts edu­ca­tion and mu­sic pro­grams in pub­lic schools.

The col­lec­tion con­sists of four trum­pets, 12 vi­ol­ins, two eu­phoni­ums, two vi­olas, a bass cla­ri­net, four snare drums and a ten­or sax­o­phone.

In all, the in­stru­ments are val­ued at more than $25,000.

“We thank you so much for this gen­er­ous gift,” Josephine Ar­caro, CEO and prin­cip­al at First Phil­adelphia, told the Fi­del­ity folks.

Ack­iewicz ex­plained that he ap­plied for the grant, which is fa­cil­it­ated by the Mr. Hol­land’s Opus Found­a­tion, a na­tion­al non-profit or­gan­iz­a­tion. He learned of the win­ning ap­plic­a­tion two weeks be­fore the present­a­tion, and staff kept the ex­cit­ing news secret from the kids un­til the big day.

The in­stru­ments matched a wish list the school had.

Fi­del­ity and the Mr. Hol­land’s Opus Found­a­tion, which share the same mis­sion, were im­pressed that al­most half of First Phil­adelphia’s 750 stu­dents par­ti­cip­ate in the mu­sic pro­gram.

To date, Fi­del­ity, a fin­an­cial ser­vices gi­ant, has donated more than 1,800 new in­stru­ments, val­ued at more than $2 mil­lion, to schools across the coun­try.

In four years, Ack­iewicz has in­creased par­ti­cip­a­tion in the in­stru­ment­al mu­sic pro­gram from 70 to 350 stu­dents among second- through eighth-graders.

“We didn’t have enough in­stru­ments to give every­body,” he said. “We have a wait­ing list.”

The dona­tion will help make sure Ack­iewicz doesn’t have to turn away any young­ster or even have chil­dren share in­stru­ments.

“This is go­ing to be phe­nom­en­al,” he said. “It will give them bet­ter qual­ity in­stru­ments and help en­hance the tone.”

Ack­iewicz said the mu­sic pro­gram fea­tures a choir, jazz band, glee club and 15 en­sembles from small to large and be­gin­ner to ad­vanced. In ad­di­tion, there is an an­nu­al mu­sic­al. This year, the school will per­form Alad­din Jr.

The mu­sic teach­er be­lieves the new in­stru­ments will help the stu­dents as they seek en­trance in­to high schools such as the Arts Academy at Ben­jamin Rush, the High School for Cre­at­ive and Per­form­ing Arts and the Gir­ard Aca­dem­ic Mu­sic Pro­gram.

The stu­dents already were look­ing for­ward to per­form­ing in con­cert on the even­ing of Dec. 8, and the gen­er­os­ity from Fi­del­ity made them even more ex­cited.

“The donated in­stru­ments will help our mu­sic pro­gram get big­ger,” said sixth-grader Shawn Hayes, who plays cla­ri­net and is already look­ing to try the new bass cla­ri­net.

Sara Rodrig­uez, an­oth­er sixth-grader who plays cla­ri­net, said, “It’s great that they donated the in­stru­ments be­cause it will make our con­certs even bet­ter than they nor­mally are, and thirty more kids can play.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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