Thousands of Spokane fifth- and sixth-graders get together every year to perform for the community in the Band and Strings Extravaganza at the Spokane Arena.
“It’s just an exciting night,” said Terren Roloff, Spokane Public Schools spokeswoman. “Most of them will never get the chance to perform in such a large group again.”
But the 60-year-old tradition is in trouble. Organizers are having difficulty raising the $25,000 needed to pay for the event, which is set to take place in the spring.
“It’s really an expensive undertaking,” said Dave Weatherred, visual and performing arts coordinator.
The main costs are the arena’s rental, busing children to and from practice and the performance.
The concert, which features students from 34 elementary schools in the Spokane school district, used to be supported by money from the general fund, he said.
But when the district faced budget cuts, the concert was one of the items axed, so the district had to find alternate ways to foot the bill.
The Spokane Public Schools Foundation is helping raise the needed money by competing in a contest sponsored by Clorox in which troubled school programs are nominated to win a $50,000 grant or one of two $20,000 grants. Whichever program gets the most votes by Nov. 1 wins.
Despite a lack of funding, organizers decided to continue the tradition of not charging concertgoers a fee, though donations will be accepted.
“We try to keep it a free concert because we want all families to be able to come,” Weatherred said.
Even in a struggling economy, it is important to fund the concert because it gives the children a chance to show off their skills, said Maureen Ramos, a foundation board member.
The concert also promotes the performing arts and encourages children to continue playing music throughout childhood and into adulthood.
“We’re all about educating the whole child,” Ramos said.
“This gives us a chance in their early years in school to develop an appreciation for the arts.”