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Spring Valley Community Concert

Spring Valley Academy, CA

3900 Conrad Dr, Spring Valley, San Diego, CA, USA
LaMesa Spring Valley School District
Director: James Villegas
Category: Community Event
Award: Bronze, 2020

Project Description

Sonic Expressions is what we call our general music education class that is made up of non-musician general education students and students with special needs or students who are medically fragile. The class is designed to merge these groups of students together through the ‘magic of music’ so they form relationships and accomplish common goals.

The purpose of our project was to take this class of over 50 (including their special aids and paraprofessionals) into the community by way of an interactive concert on stage at a nearby retirement community. This concert would place our musicians in a new environment and connect them with the community through performance. In turn, our audience would be able to engage with the students and learn more about them. The concert removes the boundaries and stigmas associated with special need programs.

In addition, the concert was programmed by the students working together to create the community concert. The loading of three busses, set up and tear down was managed by our Tri M honor students, allowing the performers the opportunity to engage directly with the community.

And finally, the concert provided an opportunity for the parents of our students with special needs to see their kids on a stage participating with other students in an equally fun and entertaining community setting. I should add, the parents did not travel with the busses (they were full!) but grew to recognize their students as peers of the average middle school band and members of the community.

Target Audience

The target audience were the residents and guests of the Mt. Miguel Covenant Village, a retirement community about 10 miles from our campus, the families of our students, and students with special needs not yet old enough to join Sonic Expressions (specifically 4th and 5th graders).

Overview of planning and execution process for this project

A resident of the Mt. Miguel Covenant Village saw this group perform at our school Winter Concert on December 19, 2018, and reached out to the band director suggesting a concert on their community stage. The director contacted the community liaison at Mt. Miguel and by mid-January the Date of March 12, 2019, was selected.

The director then set the students to preparing their favorite pieces that would demonstrate their skills on the handbells, boom whackers, bucket drumming, electric bases, beatboxing, comedy routines and more. The emphasis was to highlight the student’s unique talents and abilities in a variety show. The show was themed through the opening number (Best Day of My Life) and closing number (How Far I’ll Go).

In addition, special planning had to happen to meet specific medical needs and procedures, medications, critical transportation requirements, accompanying nurse and paraprofessionals. No student was going to be left out!

We have an active Tri-M Musicians Honor Society (middle school) and these model students were tapped to be our official “Show Roadies”. It happens they are all in the marching band and are very adept (and quick) when it comes to moving equipment. They were very instrumental in setting up, ushering, and making the transitions.

Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.

We benefited from the staff and residents of the Mt. Miguel Covenant Village for the invitation, working around our times and having us on their stage. For many of our kids it was a once in a lifetime experience. Our GenEd students learned about working hard and achieving a goal that has a positive outcome on our community.

The Village benefited by learning more about our program and about students with special needs and can add our participation to their own community involvement program.

Mt. Miguel Covenant Village donated $150 towards our budget, the SVA band covered the rest through family donations.

Community Impact

The project has had a positive effect on our school by making us more a part of the community, not just ‘that middle school down the street’. It has improved our school image, strengthened our ties to the community, and brought in positive feed back from the participants. On a district level, it added to our marketability and competition with the surrounding districts and growing number of charter schools.

The students involved now have a deeper connection to the community, are a part of its fabric now and carry themselves differently. They are proud to have done something.

Overall budget


Specific Budget Breakdown

  • 250.00 for transportation
  • 120.00 for T-shirts we screen printed ourselves as a class project
  • 80.00 for folding equipment tables

New or recurring project?

New Project

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

My biggest challenge was coordinating with the district transportation department and paying for the busses. We needed to accommodate several wheelchairs and 5-point harnesses, equipment and general seating. I did need to point out that the ADA did not allow for extra charges or for students to NOT be accommodated- in other words I should not be charged for having an extra bus to meet our special needs; this was an entire class outing.

While students with special needs are resilient, openminded and full of love, general education middle school students are less so. One of the biggest classroom challenges was getting everyone to buy into the program. I found I could accomplish this by setting down my baton and simply be a guide, allowing each student and student group, or “pod”, to arrive at their own “performance comfort zone” by making their own musical choices. The students discovered they could do things, learn things on their own and suddenly practice became fun. All I had to do was make the final decisions and type up the program.

The other challenges were no more than taking the band into a parade or festival; standard details, paperwork, etcetera.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

I measured the absolute success of the project by student response- all had fun and wondered if we could do it again.

I measured the success by the community response of pictures and tears- some never thought they would ever see their child performing on stage. Others just amazed at not knowing which kids were which (that was the educational point) and by the quality of the performance.

I measure the success by Mt. Miguel Covenant Village’s invitation to make this a regular event, or perhaps even add a Christmas show.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

This is well worth doing. Community concerts get us out of the school, off the football field, away from the festival crowd and into the community where music matters most and where our unknown friends and allies are to be found. Retirement communities have surprisingly great facilities and staff that are on the constant look out for activities for their residents. Seniors tend to have the time, ability and desire to connect with the local community. Most have a musical background because most are from the age when bands and music were a big part of the community. I established a new partnership for my students simply by reaching out, I would give anyone that advice.

I made one of my bands nearly half special needs (we’re a gen ed class by definition) by reaching out to our special ed department. These kids and their families need exactly what music has to offer. Such a program is not without its challenges, but the best advice is to team up or co teach with a SpEd teacher.

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