News Column

Thin Ice: Rooftop fundraiser to hit high notes for schools' music programs

August 14, 2014

By Dan Lyksett, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

Aug. 14--A few years back at my 35th annual high school class reunion a half-dozen classmates -- an eclectic group who had all gone off to live separate lives -- gathered together in front of the crowd to reprise some songs they'd sung together in chorus those many years ago.

It was a hit, a chart-topper. Those tunes drew the crowd together, including folks who had never sung in chorus or even attended a concert. I remember standing back and scanning a wall of smiling faces, wanting to hold that moment as my memory of that reunion.

Such can be the magic of music.

Today public schools like mine are being challenged financially, with music education often toward the bottom of the funding priority list. Next month there's a rather unusual event planned in Eau Claire aimed at partially addressing that issue locally with a little directed fundraising.

The Eau Claire Music School is putting on a Rockin' the Rooftop fundraising concert at its offices in Eau Claire. Three popular area bands -- The Heart Pills, Dames and Adelyn Rose -- will perform from the music school's flat roof from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5.

The unusual concert will have free admission, but the audience gathered in the school's parking lot will have access to a silent auction and the ability to make a tax-deductible donation, with all the money collected being distributed through the Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation to music programs in the Altoona, Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire school districts.

"Eau Claire is undeniably an arts community, and that creative economy is critical to Eau Claire and the greater Chippewa Valley," said Shawn Smets, program director at the Eau Claire Music School, who is coordinating the fundraiser/concert. "So supporting music education is particularly worthy of our attention."

Smets, himself a graduate of Eau Claire's public school system, sings the praises of music education with missionary zeal and for good reason -- he said study after study has shown it offers tremendous benefits to students individually and to the community at large.

"Their performance and attendance at school improves, and it improves their prospects in life," he said. "It can have a tremendous impact on a student's life."

And yet the reality of public education in this state is tight budgets across the board. Music departments share in the funding crunch.

"Some kids are playing instruments that have holes in them, that are beyond their instrumental life," Smets said. "There are students playing instruments that their parents and grandparents played."

The Rockin' the Rooftop concert coincides with the music school's fifth anniversary, but it's actually been on a to-do wish list for some time. This year the opportunity to partner with radio station BOB-FM (99.9) helped it become a reality.

"It turns out BOB-FM also had been looking for an avenue to do some charitable promotion targeted toward music education," Smets said.

People attending the concert can bid on the auction items and also make cash, check and secure credit card donations on site. Sponsorships and other promotional opportunities are also available.

Smets hopes the efforts end in a substantial boost for local student musician-wannabes.

"Every single penny generated is going to local school music programs," he said. "It's a unique concert and a unique opportunity to contribute to a cause that's important."

Lyksett can be reached at 715-830-5926 or


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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)

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