Katy Perry and Michael Strahan: Celebrity band geeks helping students

Katy Perry and Michael Strahan are the latest celebrities giving time and resources to school bands, which in many part of the country are underfunded.

Joel Ryan/Invision/AP/FILE
In this Nov. 10, 2013 file photo, singer Katy Perry poses at the 2013 MTV Europe Music Awards, in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Even though school’s not in session, pop star Katy Perry and former pro-football player Michael Strahan are both in the news today for helping bring supplies, instruments, and opportunities to students.

Mr. Strahan gave back to his alma mater, Texas Southern University, by donating $100,000 to the marching band known as the “Ocean of Soul.”

The gift will also benefit Strahan by helping to transport the marching band to Canton, Ohio, so they can play when Strahan is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. Strahan is also co-host of the morning TV talk show, "Live with Kelly and Michael."

However, as the mom of two sons who are current and former marching band members, I know what a travel and performance opportunity like this means to a student and just how many crates of fruit, rolls of wrapping paper, and car washes it takes to raise that kind of money.

Sadly, I also know what it’s like to be the parent of a young musician whose school has failed to raise the amount necessary to travel, buy new instruments, or have enough instruments to supply all those who wish to participate in a music program.

That’s why the announcement on June 13, that office supply retailer Staples and Ms. Perry created the “Make Roar Happen” campaign was good news to me as a mom, who often feels that no matter how many clean cars are driving around thanks to one of my kids, we aren’t getting anywhere near the funding needed. The campaign is named in part for Perry’s empowerment pop ballad “Roar.” 

And today, Perry is in the news for making sure 88 local classroom projects in Atlanta, Georgia, are funded as part of Staples’ $1 million donation to DonorsChoose.org.

Via the web site DonorsChoose.org, teachers unable to afford resources can reach out for local donations. The charity has already helped fund more than 450,000 classroom projects and impacted more than 11 million students.

According to Business Wire, this $128,158 donation helped 77 teachers fulfill classroom needs and helped 8,779 students in the Atlanta public school district.

My favorite part of this donation is that teacher Matthew Hall at Bunche Middle School outside of Atlanta will use his funds to secure flutes, clarinets, a flugelhorn, a saxophone, and a digital piano for his school’s music program.

“My students are eager students that live and breathe music. The majority of them come from homes where the resources are not available for instrument purchase. As a result, they depend upon me to provide them with their resources for their musical outlet,” Mr. Hall wrote in his request on the DonorsChoose website.

“My school provides very little financial support to our music program because we are not a "core" class. My students come to school early to and leave late just to come to the band room and enrich their lives through music.”

I connect to this donation because my son Avery, 15, plays the cello so beautifully, yet resources at his high school, Matthew Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia, are so sparse he and other students get little opportunity to take instruments home as they take turns sharing battered instruments.

Our family has never been able to afford music lessons, much less buying, or even renting instruments.

My son Ian, 20, who preceded Avery at the same high school was also in chamber orchestra playing double bass as well as marching band playing trombone.

For the past five years I have listened as they talked about not being able to get strings, rosin or useable bows, let alone being able to raise the money to make it to events and competitions.

According to the Donors Choose website, the donations are available only to "front-line educators" at United States public and charter schools. This includes: teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, school nurses and full-time teachers, who also act as coaches.

As much as I wish the parents could submit on behalf of specific teachers, Donors Choose is a big help for filling a gap for teachers.

Parents across the nation have worked so hard to see kids in underfunded schools succeed academically, even as we often see programs in the arts dwindle due to lack of funding.

While my kids and their schools might still be pressing hard to making their pleas for funding heard, I am overjoyed to know that there are those who will roar come September.

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