Education Matters: Bringing the gift of music to Caruthers Elementary School

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Music is making a comeback in the Caruthers school district, an accomplishment that received a big boost from both VH1 and Amazon.

10 year old James Guzman is learning the flute.

“I’m learning how to use, put my hands around the places it was suppose to go to play it”, said Guzman.

Look around you see he is not the only one.

“Right now we’re just starting I’m kind of bad right now a little rusty”, said student Ricardo Manriquez.

For these 6th graders at Caruthers Elementary School this is not only their first experience learning to play an instrument it is their first exposure to music education period.

“Other than the songs they hear on the radio they really have never experience music education yet”, mentioned music teacher Rebekah Wukits.

The Caruthers school district had to cut its music program when the recession hit in 2008.

“It was devastating. The recession hit education as an industry and then it hit our community really hard,” stated Superintendent Orin Hirschkorn.

Superintendent Orin Hirshkorn says ever since that day the district’s focus has been on bringing music back to its schools. Last year they did that.

“First starting with band for 6th through 8th graders. The school dusted off equipment stored away since the recession, ” he added.

The stage in the cafeteria serves as the band room. Its a tight fit for students and the equipment. They also have to compete with the lunch crowd; judging by the looks on their faces…all that doesn’t seem to matter. Caruthers Elementary added music for its lower grades this year. Rebekah Wakits was hired as a full time music teacher.

“It’s been an amazing experience. My job is to sing and dance with children you can’t ask for anything better than that,” she stated.

The commitment Caruthers made to restoring its music program, including passing a bond measure to build a new music building; earned the district a lot of support. Starting with a partnership  with the Fresno  County superintendent of schools and VH1 save the music foundation.

“They committed to a full-time music teacher for the elementary school and with that we committed to 40-thousand dollars worth of instruments that we donated this fall so that the elementary and middle school can get off the ground and be in full force,” said Jaclyn Rudderow with the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. 

When VH1 visited Caruthers to celebrate the districts newly restored music program it brought along it’s newest partner and Fresno’s newest business, Amazon.

“We firmly believe in giving back to our community in which we both live and work.”

Their donation to Caruthers Elementary more than 430 new musical instruments. ..that kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on

“We feel that music is an integral part of the learning experience with students that and coupled with what we do in our communities it’s a perfect match,” said Kelvin Downes with amazon.

You can see that this is a big deal for the small farming town of Caruthers having VH1 and Amazon come and celebrate with it’s children. But the educators here know its much more. It’s a gift that will help their students learn, keep them in school, give them a love for music

“It is amazing because I just know what this entails for them. They might not realize what they have yet but they are going to look back and will recognize that it is such a gift and I’m so incredibly happy,” stated Principal Marla Dominguez.

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