Meadville Tribune

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February 27, 2014

Community support, donations made for ‘extra’ special weekend

Sometimes things happen that make a special event “extra” special. The PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) District 2 Jazz Festival this past weekend at Conneaut Area Senior High School in Linesville was one of those occasions.

More than 130 students from seven counties auditioned in November for the opportunity to work under a noted conductor in one of four bands that would perform at the festival. Seventy-four students were selected. They practiced individually at their schools with their teachers in preparation for their arrival at CASH last Thursday evening. Then they rehearsed with their respective bands and conductors that night and all day Friday, presenting a stellar concert on Saturday afternoon to a packed house.

The visiting students, some from as far away as Coudersport, usually stay overnight with local families during these festivals. Unfortunately, as the festival drew near, we found that we only had enough homes volunteered to enable us to house 29 of the 65 visiting student musicians! (The nine additional students from Conneaut Area Senior High commuted from their homes.)

It was at this point that something “extra special” happened. In response to an email appeal for more homes that was sent to Conneaut school personnel, Joyce Popovich of Park Restoration (and also a Conneaut employee) offered to house the remaining 36 students at the Hotel Conneaut — at no charge! This was definitely a life saver, as we had not budgeted for the expense of housing students in a hotel. But wait, there is more.

Hard working high school students need to be fed! We had planned for lunch and dinner at the school, but breakfast and evening snacks are usually the responsibility of the host family. Joyce received a donation of eggs from Sperry Farms in Atlantic to help with breakfasts for the students at the hotel. Working from that, she then tried to see if she could get donations for the rest of the breakfast food. Our school district’s food service provider, Nutrition Inc., donated most of what was needed, and the hotel filled in the rest. Another problem solved!

The last ingredient in making this unexpected housing situation work was transportation. How were we to get 36 students back and forth to the hotel Thursday night, Friday morning and night, and Saturday morning? We contacted Anderson Coach and Tour, our school district’s transportation provider. Rick Bridge said he could do it for a maximum of $300, but he was still working on reducing the cost. Several days before the students arrived, we received a message from Pam Anderson. Two of their drivers, John Spencer (a retired music teacher who often helps with the CASH Band) and Rick Huff (a CASH Band parent) had volunteered their services. In addition, Anderson was donating the use of their buses and gas!

Long story made short — we were faced with a huge, unexpected problem which could have cost us several thousand dollars to solve, money that we simply did not have. But through the generosity and initiative of community members and businesses, our problem was solved and a wonderful festival was saved, at no cost!

The Conneaut Area Senior High Music Department, the Conneaut Area Friends of Music, the 36 students who were housed at the hotel (who had a marvelous time) and their schools, and the Conneaut School District would like to express their deep gratitude to Joyce Popovich and Park Restoration; Nutrition Inc.; Anderson Coach and Tour; and John Spencer and Rick Huff for all that they did to make our special event “extra” special! Generosity like this is part of what makes Crawford County a wonderful place to live!

Glenn R. Cameron and Ralph Egyud are Conneaut Area Senior High School music teachers.

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