This Week’s All-District Music Festival Reveals Vibrancy of Pasadena Unified’s Arts Programs

Published : Wednesday, February 8, 2017 | 6:28 AM

Alongside the happy and cheerful sound of all of the students in the choral, band and orchestras in the two-day music festival Pasadena Unified School District is staging starting tonight there are even happier notes being played by administrators who say the arts programs at Pasadena Unified are strong, vibrant and expanding.

The PUSD All-District Secondary Music Festivals will bring together over 1,000 students in bands, orchestras and choirs from schools across the district. The music festivals will take place at Pasadena High School on Wednesday and Thursday, with both events at 7:00 p.m.

“We do have really thriving performing arts and visual arts in our schools and I would love for the community to celebrate that and know that it is happening,” said Pasadena Unified School District Arts Education Coordinator Jen Olson.

According to the State of California Arts Education Data Project which provides important information to education leaders, teachers and parents about levels of access to and enrollment in arts courses in schools grades 6 through 12, the arts at Pasadena Unified are thriving at a nearly 60 percent participation rate which is well above the statewide average of 38 percent, Olson said.

Olson is optimistic about the future.

The majority of the money that funds the art programs come from PUSD and the State of California with additional assistance from the Pasadena Educational Foundation, federal grants and also thanks to a robust fundraising efforts that come from the school site level, according to Olson.

“We are not relying one hundred percent on the State budget. I am not overly concerned about the State budget for next year. Our arts programs have always been diversified in their funding sources,” explained Olson.

“Whether you are a performer or in the audience, music has an immense power to engage and enliven your world. Every year I attend PUSD’s All District Music Festival I am awed by the talents and creativity of our students and teachers,”said Pasadena Educational Foundation Executive Director Patrick Conyers.

“Music in our schools is a vital and essential part of a child’s educational experience, and the Pasadena Educational Foundation is proud to be able to help showcase more than 1,000 of our community’s remarkable children,” Conyers said.

The two day music festival that features both a choral event and instrumental event is an eye opening experience for students that Guest Conductor Lauren Buckley Schaer says is unlike no other.

“Music is one of the few things where people can bring individual talents together to do something as one unit with a common goal. It’s not a competition like a sports are. It requires the same kind of teamwork, but everybody gets elevated and not only do you get to elevate your fellow singers, you get to share that with your family and friends. It’s an incredible connector just in terms of an experience,” said Buckley Schaer who is also the Associate Conductor for the Pasadena Master Chorale.

“In terms of being a teaching tool, music encourages teamwork, it inspires trust and you learn to count on each other to contribute your absolute best because you know that your best is going to go towards the whole,” Buckley Schaer added. “I think most people can agree that being apart of something meaningful and beautiful is worthwhile and that’s what choir does for students,” said Schaer.

Schaer gave insight about the tug and pull that comes with helping administrators in the education system realize the importance of music and art programs.

“There’s constantly been the struggle to convince the powers that be that something like music isn’t a frivolous past time. I think most people who are involved in it shake their heads in disbelief that they have to actually prove that to people that art is not something frivolous and that music is not something that should be cut at the first sign of trouble. Things like this festival are really important because it teaches the students that we value what they are doing and that is empowering,” explained Schaer.

Olson said she is putting forward proposals to further expand what PUSD is doing in terms of art programming to help keep and create programs for students across the board.

“We have so many fabulous community partnerships with the arts organizations in town and there is also just a sense that participating in the arts is a part of being a Pasadenan. It’s in our culture and we won’t get rid of it,” said Olson.

The PUSD All-District Secondary Music Festivals will be held on Wednesday, February 8th(Choral) and Thursday, February 9 (Band & Orchestra) from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. both days at the Pasadena High School Auditorium located at 2925 E. Sierra Madre Blvd.

These festivals will bring together over 1000 students in bands, orchestras and choirs from schools across the district. Guest conductor Lauren Buckley of the Pasadena Master Chorale as well as PUSD staff will conduct the performances.

For more information, visit

blog comments powered by Disqus