Saturday, July 13, 2024

Cascade Choir Crescendo campaign benefit concert at Snowy Owl packs the house


LEAVENWORTH - It was standing room only in Icicle Creek Center for the Arts’ (ICCA) Snowy Owl Theater on the evening of June 11 at the concert to support choir programs at Icicle River Middle School (IRMS) and Cascade High School (CHS).

Spearheaded by CHS alumna and voice instructor Amy Edwards and presented by the Cascade Parent Teacher Student Association and the Cascade High School Choir and Band Boosters, the event was held to raise money to help fund the IRMS and CHS choral departments, both of which were slated for elimination in the 2024-2025 Cascade School District (CSD) budget. 

As was reported in the Leavenworth Echo last month, outgoing choral director Isabella Garcia announced her end-of-year resignation prior to the budget release. Once it was released, it did not account for her replacement. However, CHS’s choir may have a path to be reinstated. Mindy Wall, a former choral director for both schools and currently a part-time American Sign Language teacher at CHS, “talked to the administration and said if they can find the funding for a part-time teacher, [she] would step in.” Wall stated that as a former director of the program, she “would be willing to step in to keep the program running so that one day, when the district has the funding again, it wouldn't be starting from scratch.” 

The CHS stopgap measure, even if budgeted for by CSD, neither includes a choral instructor for IRMS nor choir overhead, such as sheet music and accompanists, at either school. That is where the Cascade Choir Crescendo Campaign came in, estimating that the shortfall to be $65,000. 

When Edwards heard the details of the CSD cuts, she was first upset, taking to social media: “The [C]ascade [S]chool [D]istrict choir program is where I found my people in school. It is why I have a music degree and why I am a music teacher. It truly feels like the school district is not making the best choices that are in the best interest of the students, [sic] but are the easiest budgeting choices to make.” 

Then she became activated: “[The idea for the campaign] came together rather quickly. A handful of friends and parents of students got together and decided we had to do something to help out.” Edwards recounts that the first step was taken by her middle school aged daughter, Holly, who “made magnets in the form of a protest for kids at IRMS to put on their lockers. And she created a YouTube video setting out why choir and arts are necessary in schools. From there it grew and snowballed. As a member of the PTSA, we started an online campaign and, knowing that we needed more than the online platform, we put together a concert.”

The concert, emceed by former radio host and current Director of Public Relations at Cascade Medical Center, Clint Strand, featured performances by various configurations of the IRMS choir, interspersed with solos and duets from Edwards, fellow CHS alumnus Landon Davies, and a host of others, most of whom have been affiliated with CSD or Leavenworth Summer Theater.  

The night also included a bake sale, silent auction, and raffle. ICCA donated the use of Snowy Owl; backstage assistance was provided pro bono by members of the Numerica Performing Arts Center; the entry fee was $20.

The production raised almost $10,000, which brings the campaign total, at the time of this writing, to just shy of $21,000. “Once we have raised two-thirds of the money [$65,000], the school will feel confident enough to go out and hire a teacher and we’ll write a check to the school district,” reports Mercy Rome, President of the PTSA and ICCA Board member. 

Rome continued, “The goal is to have a complete program at both the middle and high schools – to go to choir competitions and buy the music they need to sing. So, there’s not just the salary component but all those additional costs that we want funded for the two schools. Having a choir program provides a place where a kid can feel inspired, connected to a social group, and come alive. I believe a school should have diverse offerings, including choir, to find something that inspires them.” 

Rome is not alone in that feeling, as evidenced by the turnout at Snowy Owl and, as she put it, “the outpouring of energy and excitement from the community for choir and performance. It really showed off the beauty of the capacity to sing.” Edwards concurred: “You learn to be a citizen in choir, you learn to be a team player in choir, you learn to be a community.”

To donate to the Cascade Choir Crescendo Campaign, follow the link below.

Caroline Menna is an intern for Ward Media and a rising senior (Class of 2025) at Cascade High School. She will serve as Editor-in-Chief of the Cascade High School Publications Group for the 2024-2025 academic year.


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