How One California High School Got Serious, Made a Video, and Won a Glee Give a Note Grant to Keep Music Alive

No one likes to be called to the principal’s office, but for Carla K. Bartlett, the visit in December, 2011 was cause for celebration. Principal Grace Love of Mark Keppel High School, Alhambra, California, made that request of Bartlett. Bartlett leads the school instrumental program. When Bartlett closed the office door, Love had just one question: “How do you think that are you going to spend $10,000?” Bartlett said she jumped and shouted, realizing the school had won a grant through the GLEE Give a Note campaign. In applying for the grant she and her students had created a two-minute  video that illustrated just how badly the money was needed to support the music program.  

Glee Give a Note Grant is Helping Save a Struggling Music Program.

From September through December 2011, the Give a Note Foundation of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) collaborated with Twentieth Century Fox Television, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and the TV show GLEE to provide grants of $1 million to 73 schools. The Mark Keppel High School video was one of dozens that schools produced to compete in the online contest. After moving through earlier rounds which narrowed the number of schools to those most in need, winners were selected on the basis of the number of online votes they received. The Glee Give a Note campaign included video postings by schools, a public service announcement made by Glee star, Jane Lynch, a website to foster awareness for music programs, and a national media campaign highlighting school music programs in dozens of states.


Keppel’s School Video Reflected a Community Effort

“It seemed like a wonderful opportunity for us,” Bartlett said of her decision to enter the contest. “All of the kids watch Glee. They love that show and I knew they could buy into the idea of competing for a grant. We all knew the money to support our program was very badly needed,” she said. She has nearly 300 students in music classes and a very small budget for the music program. Students use school instruments and many of them are battered from years of use. Often instruments are shared because there simply are not enough to go around . To put those realities into perspective, the  Keppel Glee submission video notes that the school’s music program offers band, orchestra, guitar, world drumming and AP music theory classes, each with 50 or more students. Resources to support those classes have long been stretched thin. In one segment of the video, students practice in closet-sized spaces, and display battered brass instruments instrument cases, held together with duct tape, as well as drums with peeling skins. The video explains that the school’s music groups often perform in the community. One example is Keppel’s annual Veterans’ Day concert, and Bartlett added that her music groups performed more than 40 times during the last school year. “We need more funding to continue to do more wonderful things with music,” the narrator says, and students describe the welcoming, creative atmosphere of the school’s music classes. It concludes, “We have a great instrumental music program. Please, please help us survive budget cuts and continue to thrive.”

Working to Get Out the Vote

During the voting period, Keppel students conducted a massive grassroots  effort to gain support for their school, reaching out to their families, friends and community members to get the word out to support the video. Word quickly spread through their Facebook and Twitter contacts. Bartlett, fellow teachers, Keppel students, the school’s PTA and community members voted, asking for the same of others through their own social media networks. Bartlett told students she knew they were going to win a grant. “There was no doubt in my mind about that and they worked hard to make that goal.” She said she was pleased with how involved her students were during the making of the video and during the voting period. The fact that the community in Alhambra got involved also was gratifying , she added. “We got great support from the community for our music program.”  

Putting the Grant to Good Use

In late July, 2013, Bartlett was one of 50 teachers who attended a Teaching Guitar Workshop at NAfME headquarters in Reston, Virginia. Only open to NAfME members, the Association sponsors the workshops, partnering with the GAMA Discover Guitar, Duquesne University and the NAMM Foundation. The workshops are held across the United States. During a break, she said the guitar program has helped her draw in students who don’t participate in other music programs at the school She said she wanted to take the Level II guitar instruction so she could share those teachings with her students.  Bartlett established the guitar program at Keppel after she took the Level I class. Some of the grant money went toward guitars and other instruments for the music program. “It was nice to be able to add some new instruments,” she said of the grant. Still, Bartlett often supports her music program out of pocket, purchasing, gently used instruments at yard sales, for example. She said of the Give a Note Foundation, “I want to thank them for giving us this opportunity to galvanize our kids and the community around a common purpose. It added a level of visibility for our music program. Any time you  receive that kind of validation for what you are doing, from a national music organization [like Give a Note] and television show [like Glee] it takes your program a step higher,” Bartlett said. She added that her students were thrilled to have the new instruments . Since winning the grant, she said students remain committed to keeping up the quality of the program and they continue fundraising efforts to support travel and other program elements. One monthly project is collecting cans and bottles each month to sell to a recycler.   Give a Note Foundation Teaching Guitar Workshops Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, August 13 , 2013. © National Association for Music Education