For the past two years the Dan & Lillian King Foundation, which aims to advance the learning of the U.S. Constitution, has sent scores of eighth-graders from Monterey County schools to see live productions of the Tony Award-winning show, “Hamilton: An American Musical.”
Hundreds of students from Pajaro Middle School have been treated to this experience, most recently in March, when more than 160 of them were bussed to Fresno to attend a performance.
Prior to the trip, foundation board members Mark Del Piero and Glenn Church were invited by Pajaro Middle School Principal Christopher Harris to see a group of music students perform songs from the show. It was then that Del Piero and Church realized that the school desperately needed new instruments.
“The kids did a great job,” Church said, “but it became very apparent they were using instruments from the last century—literally.”
The foundation recently bestowed a $10,000 grant to help the school replace and purchase instruments for the music department. This will include keyboards, a number of different band instruments, and anything else the school might need to round out its program.
“That 10K–we didn’t just pull that number out of the air,” Del Piero said. “It came based on the recommendation from the Superintendent’s office. We’re leaving the decision largely up to Harris and the music teacher to identify instruments that are worth retaining, and replacing those that are just ready to give up the ghost.”
Harris said the school was taken “completely by surprise” by the donation.
“[Del Piero] asked a very simple question: ‘Why are some of your instruments from the time I came to school here?’” Harris said. “Our answer was, ‘We are proud to have music classes that are enjoyable for our deserving students, however, instruments are expensive and school resources are limited.’”
A request to support Pajaro’s music program was then presented to the Foundation, and soon the school received a call with news of its official approval.
“Our charge is always to make sure students’ educational opportunities, in terms of learning about the constitution, are met,” Del Piero said. “If one way of doing that is to facilitate their music classes with additional and replacement instruments, then we have the money to be able to do that.”
“Every kid, every student learns differently,” he said. “And for these students … they’re learning not just music, but history through music, about the constitution, and our country.”
Both Del Piero and Church have a personal connection to Pajaro School: Del Piero is an alum, and Church’s parents met at the school. This makes the donation that much more meaningful, Church said.
“Both my parents were teachers there in the 1950s, and it led to them getting married,” he said. “So this is obviously really personal for me. Pajaro is in many ways a forgotten area … So we think this donation is a good way to really give these kids something that will be permanent, that has a lasting impact.”
Harris said that the grant will allow the school to significantly and rapidly improve its music education infrastructure.
“In doing so, the learning environment of our school should shift rapidly to a more positive experience and allow our students to flourish,” he said. “On behalf of all students who are enjoying and who will enjoy music classes, Pajaro School offers our sincerest gratitude to the Foundation.”