In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the impulse to help is front and center. But even when they’re not facing devastation and sorrow, people feel the need to serve and give. Some of us have strong callings to specific issues – cat rescue, Meals on Wheels, downtown beautification – while others feel the urge when a call goes out about benefits or fundraisers. Still others form organizations – foundations and nonprofits that function to offer assistance to a broad array of needs.
Rock in Road Inc. is one such organization in Tuolumne County. Its mission is “to facilitate and extend into the larger world the culture that has grown from the Strawberry Music Festival Community.” The website, rockinroad.org, describes the wish to “nurture creative expression that inspires a sense of culture, community and personal engagement by partnering with individuals and groups that embrace the spirit of the Strawberry Way.”
If you’ve never been to the Strawberry Music Festival and don’t know of the Strawberry Way, it’s best described by those who have experienced it. Several years back, I interviewed three longtime veterans of Strawberry who explained the community-minded experience.
BZ Smith called it “a temporary magical utopia where standing in line is a great way to meet people and rain means you need to get creative.”
Elaine Emmons said, “It’s a place where we all watch out for our neighbors. We care for and take care of each other.”
Arlyn Osborn claimed, “It’s about letting go of the rat race in a place where thousands of people gather, and there are no gripes; there’s enough for everyone. It’s about respect!”
So that’s what Rock in Road Inc. wants to cultivate, and that’s why a group of volunteers named Bandstand hooked up with the nonprofit. But what is Bandstand?
It’s a group of people who saw a need to help music programs in area schools. Initially, members thought they would collect and refurbished instruments to donate to school band programs. However, when they reached out to music teachers, they discovered that the need went beyond instruments.
Mic Harper, band teacher at Curtis Creek Elementary School, serves as a liaison between Bandstand and teachers. Harper named various needs such as music stands, sheet music and reeds, and added, “I’m delighted that the folks of Rock in Road and Bandstand are so dedicated to helping our music programs. Overall, our programs run on very minimal budgets. The Curtis Creek Parents Association helps with repairs and supplies. In my opinion, music and all the arts, as well as sports, school gardens and science programs need far more community support.”
This summer, Bandstand stepped up to offer its support at the 10-year-old, weeklong Gold Country Music Day Camp. During this annual camp in Columbia, music teachers from Tuolumne County schools teach classes to students. On the last day, campers stage a performance for family and friends. This year, Bandstand surprised one of the campers at this concert with the gift of an instrument.
William Spear, one of Harper’s students at Curtis Creek, received a trumpet. According to Harper, “William is student body president at Curtis Creek. He cares very much about community. William plays saxophone, trumpet, guitar, drums and was a drum major this year. He is very good at jazz and quite serious about his music.”
Later in the summer, Bandstand also gave an electric bass guitar to Kiefer Newman during the annual street dance in Columbia. Tom Cornett, who chairs the fundraising leg of Bandstand, said it took some finagling to get Kiefer to the dance to receive the surprise gift, but they managed it.
Kiefer is also a Curtis Creek student.
“I jumped at the chance to nominate him,” declared Harper, who is notorious in the community for championing young musicians, which is evidenced in her words here.
“Both William and Kiefer, who are eighth-graders, are members of the Mustang Band and the Mustang Jazz Band. Both jump in to help whenever asked and, at times, without being asked, as do many, many of my students. They are both involved in sports. William is currently running cross-country and Kiefer is a swimmer. I would like to emphasize that any of our band students – and I mean this – are deserving of being given instruments. The children of our community are delightful and inspiring. They are our hope and future – every one of them.”
Harper is a great example of the spirit of the Strawberry Way – that magical utopia where we take care of one another. Likewise, the volunteers of Bandstand have identified a calling to nurture school music programs, thereby extending the Strawberry Way into serving a community need.
Bandstand will hold its first fundraiser on Sept. 23 from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. in the Sierra Building at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora. A terrific lineup of musicians is expected, which includes Harper’s Curtis Creek Mustang Band. Additionally, five local bands will appear: Swing Gitane, Brothers Strong, Faux Renwah, Lucky CuZn Brass Band and Leilani & the Distractions. A Bay Area band called Emergency Third Rail Power Trip rounds out the lineup. The Strawberry Way Cafe will sell pulled pork, gourmet coleslaw and chicken and veggie nachos. Beer, wine and soft drinks will also be on sale. And there will be a silent auction of local goods. (Call Tom Cornett at 532-3911 if you would like to donate to the auction.)
On Sept. 23, the slowly fading glow of the Strawberry Music Festival will enjoy a momentary infusion. Perhaps groups like Rock in Road and Bandstand can help Tuolumne County sustain that glow year round.
Send word on your Tuolumne County event to email@example.com.
Bandstand: Standing up for Youth Music
WHEN: 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sept. 23
WHERE: Sierra Building, Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive (off Highway 49), Sonora
TICKETS: $10 for adults, $5 for ages 11 to 18 and free for 10 and under at Mountain Bookshop and Tradewinds in Sonora, the St. Charles Saloon in Columbia and Caffe Blossom in Twain Harte
MORE INFO: rockinroad.org
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