Lara Downes, Davis High students to present benefit concert

By From page A9 | September 12, 2012

Lara Downes — founder and director of the 88 KEYS Foundation — will be performing selected works alongside students in the Davis schools orchestra program at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23. Courtesy photo

The 88 KEYS Foundation and the Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association are presenting a back-to-school benefit concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, in the Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High School. Proceeds will benefit music education in the Davis schools orchestra program as well as strengthen small music programs in local schools.

The concert program is very personal, featuring chamber works by Brahms, Schumann and Beethoven, with Lara Downes — founder and director of the 88 KEYS Foundation — performing selected works alongside students in the Davis schools orchestra program.

Admission is available at the door only, and is by suggested donation of $12 for adults and $6 for students or children — although not required. The organizations believe music is meant to be enjoyed by all and no attendee will be turned away due to the ability to donate if there is space available.

With the future funding of music programs at stake, in addition to many other programs, the DSOMA and 88 KEYS groups are committed to enriching young musicians’ lives and inspiring others to begin the craft. High school and middle school music teacher Angelo Moreno says it is important to realize that “not every young student is exposed to music at school or at home” and that “no current student or parent should take support of their development for granted.”

Downes says “pianos were once as commonplace as dining room tables at home and at school, and that’s simply not the case anymore.”

Pianos are the most valuable instruments for learning to read music and comprehend basic theory, she says, because, unlike a voice or a violin or a trumpet, there is no complex technique behind producing a note other than pressing the keys on the piano.

Moreno and Downes note there are also encouraging trends in terms of music in the schools. Enrollment in the Davis school orchestras — from elementary to high school — is steady and growing. Funds from the DSOMA support field trips for students to see professional musicians in concert, in addition to coaching, lessons and purchasing and maintaining string instruments for students to use.

The Davis High School Orchestra program has been recognized as a model program as a “Grammy Signature School” (2011), and in 2010, the Davis Junior High Orchestras were invited to perform at the American String Teachers Association’s National Orchestra Festival.

Since its founding in 2008 by Downes, Steinway concert artist and artist-in-residence at the Mondavi Center, the 88 KEYS Foundation has placed dozens of pianos in K-12 public schools, where these instruments are bringing life to struggling music programs.

Recently featured in the New York Times, the 88 KEYS Foundation, aptly named for the 88 keys on the piano, is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, active throughout the Sacramento region in creating and rejuvenating music education efforts in local schools through donations of pianos and the support of music education programming.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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