Thanks to a generous donation from two anonymous benefactors, Pius X High School recently established an endowment to benefit the school’s band department. The $55,000 gift — $5,000 to meet immediate needs and $50,000 toward an endowed fund — will establish long-term, ongoing support for the thriving Pius X musical education department.
Band Director and music instructor Mike Murphy – now in his 28th year of teaching at Pius – describes his reaction as “overwhelmed” upon hearing about the gift that will to go toward upgrades to musical supplies, equipment and instruments used by students in the band program.
“I didn’t really know how to react – it was stunning,” Murphy recalls. “It is such a wonderful feeling to know that there are people out there that appreciate our band department to that extent.”
Murphy notes that approximately 30% of the student population at Pius X is involved in band or choir, exceeding the national average for a school of a similar size. He also points out that the endowment will be of tremendous benefit as the program continues to grow and that it will help attract even more students in the coming years. Pius X’s band program anticipates its largest ever enrollment – 126 students – in the upcoming 2013-14 school year.
“The fine arts are vitally important in education,” Murphy says. “Through them, we teach beauty, creativity, and how to express ourselves and our emotions. Music touches our emotional core like nothing else.”
The initial gift of $5,000 went toward the purchase of a bassoon and a drum set to be used for jazz band. “A bassoon is a very important part of a band,” Murphy explains, noting that the high cost of the instrument exceeds what he would expect an individual student or family to purchase on its own.
“We have been without a bassoon as the old school owned instrument wore out many years ago,” Murphy notes. “Now with a new instrument we can once again utilize a bassoonist in our bands beginning next year.” The purchase of a new drum set for the jazz band replaces a 25-year-old set.
In establishing the endowment, the benefactors expressed equal appreciation for what the musical arts can offer Pius X students.
“Studies have shown that children exposed to music and art achieve higher grades and are less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol,” the donors explain, adding that students can experience the joy of self-expression, positive self-esteem, and acceptance through
music. The donors also emphasize that formalized music training teaches students the value of teamwork, the rewards of hard work, and the discipline needed to achieve a successful performance. Moreover, the musical arts provide opportunities for positive peer-to-peer engagements and friendships that can last throughout the challenging high school years.
Murphy himself earns high praise from the donors for dedicating his life’s work to his music students for more than a quarter of a century.
“The reason why the Pius band is so dear to our hearts is because of the band director, Mr. Murphy and his wife, Mrs. Murphy,” the anonymous benefactors note. “They work tirelessly to help each student find their best and truest potential in music.”
The donors say they appreciate that all students who desire to be part of the Pius X band program – whether it is those who join as a hobby or extra-curricular activity, or those who desire a future career in music – are embraced by Murphy.
“Our children have found a great mentor in Mr. Murphy,” the donors recall, adding that their students’ fondest high school memories are the close bonds they enjoyed with fellow band members and teachers during competitions, athletic events, and road trips.
Murphy expressed tremendous gratitude to the anonymous donors. “I offer a heart-felt thank you,” he says. “I know my students well, and know they feel so appreciated that someone thinks they are worthwhile.” He adds: “We ourselves know the worth of the program, but it’s nice when other people validate that.”
Disbursement from the newly established endowment will begin in 2014-2015, with funding earmarked for upgrades to department music supplies, instruments, uniforms, and other needed improvements.