March 16, 2016

School board donation nearly completes piano fundraiser

By Daniel Arens

Excitement is growing within the Hazen Concert Series and the Hazen School District musical programs as a new addition to the community’s musical entertainment comes close to realization.
Since November, Hazen Band Director Chris Harvey has been working to try to purchase a grand piano that will be housed in Hazen. Harvey has spearheaded a multi-level campaign to raise the funds for the piano, including corporate sponsorships and a drive for community members to donate $200 for a piano key.
Although donations have continued to come in, in large part these fundraisers have begun to wind down. But they left Harvey pleasantly surprised: In total, $29,730 has been raised for the purchase of the piano, with the final amount needed amounting to $36,425. As the final prong of the money-raising campaign, Harvey approached the Hazen School Board to request $6,000 from the district, since the piano will largely be used to help the school’s music program.
At their March 14 regular meeting, the school board, under the leadership of board vice president Sonya Hansana due to the absence of board president Cris Miller, unanimously approved the request, leaving Harvey only $695 short of the goal, a number he felt confident will be raised through further donations.
Further, remaining costs are not time-sensitive; they will be used to pay for some of the wrapping-up stages of the purchase, so they are not required to be raised in any immediate timeframe.
The piano in question is a rebuilt Steinway Model B Piano, originally used by the North Dakota School for the Blind before being refurbished in Buffalo, N.Y. and then returned to Grand Forks, where Harvey found it in a music store. Harvey described the refurbishment, including an original case, re-bronzed harp, 85-year-old original soundboard, and original ivory keys, with the remainder renovated. He also noted that a new grand piano of this model typically costs nearly $100,000.
There was discussion about where the $6,000 would come from within the school budget, but the board determined that the specifics could be decided after the purchase. School District Business Manager Connie Ellwein noted that money could be found both from miscellaneous sources in this year’s budget, accounted for in the 2017 budget, or a mixture of both, and that between the various potential sources there should be no issue finding the money.
There was a lot of discussion about teaching staff. Camille Harvey is resigning her part-time position working with music in the Hazen Elementary School. The board discussed the benefits of maintaining the open position as a two-thirds time position versus changing it to a full time position. The cost of making the change would be roughly an additional $17,000, but it would also help to expand the music opportunities in the school.
Currently, there have been five applicants for the position if offered full time. One in-house elementary staff member has volunteered to take the position if the board went with maintaining the part-time responsibilities; this individual has been involved in different music programs, but does not have a degree in music.

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