Solar energy helps school restore music classes

December 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of students on the west side of Fresno County are now signing up for music classes after a tight budget stopped the program for years.

Every one of the students at Firebaugh Middle School have their own reasons for signing up for the band.

"This class I can just express my feelings in music and the other classes it's just more learning more about math and science and history and all that," sixth grader Anahi Franco said.

Brandon Ortiz picked the baritone.

"Because it's big and I like playing big instruments," Ortiz said.

Makayla Serrano is thrilled to play in the brass family.

"My grandpa used to play the trumpet so he said it'd be a good instrument for me," Serrano said.

Teachers say music is good for everyone.

"One of the best things about doing an ensemble especially with music is that is forms a sense of camaraderie and build leadership skills," Ryan Dirlam said.

This is the first year Dirlam has taught at the district. His position was created from money generated right here under the sun.

Three years ago Firebaugh schools slashed the schools choir and band program because of a tight budget.

"We already had the instruments and that's as really disheartening, we have the inventory, we just really need to get a teacher," Firebaugh School District Superintendent Russell Freitas said.

But staff members rallied and installed solar panels. Now every year the panels not only save on electric bills but also generate more than $150 thousand in rebates. That money funded three teaching positions plus it's powering up melodies in these classrooms in the form of a new choir and band program.

So far students have only had two weeks to rehearse.

They may have a ways to go but ask pretty much everyone and they'll tell you they're happy harmony is back in these rooms.

Staff members say they don't have a set date yet for the band's debut but plan to perform together publicly for the first time sometime in the spring.


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