Volunteer String Teacher for East Palo Alto

On June 3rd, 2016, Bryan Owens and Benjamin Owens had a meeting with Dr. Hernandez-Goff, the superintendent at Ravenswood School District, and Lorena Morales-Ellis, the Assistant Superintendent, to find out how they could help. Dr. Hernandez-Goff told them what the district needed most were three things: 1) Finding a professional volunteer string teacher.  2) Buying a kiln.  3) Setting up a writing competition for middle school students.

Historically, students who attended Menlo-Atherton High School from East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park were never able to join their high school orchestra because they did not have sufficient experience in string instruments. Ravenswood School District had aquired the violins necessary for an after school music program, but they did not have the funds to support a string teacher.

After the meeting with Dr. Hernandez, Benjamin and Bryan discussed possible ways to solve the problem, including fund raising to support a string teacher to work at East Palo Alto and finding a volunteer string teacher. Benjamin searched the internet, asked friends, and called many venues. He visited Opus 1, Heaney Violins, Sono Strings, and others. On July 22, Sono Strings said they might be able to help, but they had a lot of questions. They wished to see the instruments, to know more about the dates and time of the program, and to know the available funding. Their interest was encouraging!

Immediately after Dr. Hernandez-Goff came back to work, on August 9, 2016, Bryan and Benjamin met her and Ms. Lorena Morales-Ellis again at the district office. They discussed all three topics brought up in June, especially the possibility of a volunteer string teacher. Benjamin then set up a meeting between Ravenswood School District and Sono Strings for the very next day.

The meeting was successful. Not only did Sono Strings agree to provide two volunteers, but they also agreed to maintain the string instruments for free, hold benefactor concerts, train the students to put on a holiday concert, and provide extra support. Ravenswood City School District will now be able to offer a string class to its students.