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 firstname.lastname@example.org