When a student’s talent, love of music and dedication to performance elevates them to a level of skill and artistry worthy of playing in a high school honor band, it’s a big deal. They make their schools and families proud and they represent their communities with distinction.
It’s also a lot of work to get there and the costs can add up.
Grants help solve challenges
Quincy Junior-Senior High School student Tristan McMichael knows about these challenges firsthand and he decided to do something about it.
McMichael has made a name for himself in Plumas County as a champion for the performing arts, especially music education. He volunteers with the new nonprofit Plumas Performing Arts and he’s a problem solver, too.
“I’ve been working to find more funding for the music program so the Quincy Honor Band is accessible to every student,” the young activist said following his recent success with qualifying for two grants.
Through his efforts, the local Clarence R. Schott Memorial Music Fund has approved $1,000 for QJSHS Honor Band expenses. The Common Good Community Foundation of Plumas County has also awarded the program $1,500.
The Schott fund was pleased to fund his request, according to volunteer Nancy Gambell and Michael Schott, son of the “legendary” music director who led the Quincy High Band for 35 years.
Colleen McKeown, founder and president of the Common Good Community Foundation, also praised McMichael’s efforts.
“Every board member was highly impressed with the initiative Tristan showed in submitting the funding request for the honor band,” McKeown said. “He did an excellent job on the funding request and his enthusiasm and initiative went a long way in his request being approved.”
Different from regular band
McMichael applied for funding to help defray the expenses he and his fellow honor band musicians incur as part of traveling to performances and competing against other talented musical peers.
“Honor band is different from regular band,” he explained, “because it’s an opportunity for students to play in a full-size concert band. You work with a professional conductor playing more advanced music in a full-sized ensemble. The cool part about it is that you learn all of your music and perform in the span of a weekend and you are playing with players from many different schools.”
Students are selected for honor bands by audition or teacher selection, according to McMichael, who is a junior this year and plays seven instruments (alto, baritone, soprano and tenor saxophone as well as flute, clarinet and percussion).
“Honor band experiences bond the students in our band as they learn and grow musically together as individuals and as a group,” he said, “experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Needs stretch music budget
Tryouts and selection both require a participation fee that taxes Quincy High’s music education budget, the musician said, adding that Plumas Unified School District’s music program funding “is tight” and the limited budget must cover several needs including honor band fees, repairs, supplies and music.
“Unfortunately, this does not cover hotel expenses for honor band events,” McMichael said, adding that there are five possible opportunities for events that honor band students can attend and existing budget commitments for other expenses can deplete funds, potentially limiting students’ abilities to participate outside their community.
McMichael’s grant applications demonstrated a need for $2,822. He asked for donations to help cover hotel fees, food expenses, audition costs and participation fees. His earnest narratives explained the donations would directly affect at least 20 students in the QJSHS music program who are eligible for the honor band activities.
“Our goal is to ensure that cost is not a barrier for any student wishing to attend an honor band event,” he wrote. “Without proper funding, we will have to reduce the number (of events) to which we take our students because we have already exceeded our $800 budget due to classroom supply needs and instrument repairs.”
Dedication pays off
McMichael’s commitment to music shines through everything he does and his volunteer work also benefits younger students in elementary schools. He regularly presents information to Plumas County’s K-6 teachers about providing music and instruments for their classes.
As an accomplished player himself, however, the student has a special dedication to his fellow Quincy High musicians.
He said honor band events challenge students to play harder music, adapt to a new ensemble and gain experience with college-level conductors. Participants meet band students from around the region and form lasting friendships.
In addition, he said, music camps often give tuition discounts to students for participating in honor bands and many of the individuals whom students meet at the events are people they also see at the summer camps.
Appreciation and thanks
On behalf of his fellow school musicians, McMichael expressed deep appreciation and thanks for the support provided by the Schott Fund and Common Good Community Foundation.
“Honor band students are exposed to different college campuses, affording them opportunities to explore options for the future,” he said with thanks. “Some of the band events even feature a tour of the college where the events are located. During these (performance) events, students’ abilities and comprehension grow tremendously.”
How to support Plumas music education and other arts programs
Clarence R. Schott Memorial Music Fund
Donations may be made payable to:
In care of Nancy Gambell
PO Box 3743
Quincy CA 95971
Common Good Community Foundation
364 Johnsville Road
Blairsden CA 96103
Plumas Performing Arts
Marty Walters or
Special Note: The QHS Boosters and Common Good Community Foundation are nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations and donations are tax deductible. Plumas Performing Arts is a nonprofit and work is currently underway to acquire designation as a 501(c)(3).