Annual Sing For Your Life benefit raises funds for local music programs
It’s no secret that California’s budget crisis has had a deep impact on high school curriculum. With administrators struggling to balance their budgets, everything deemed “non-essential” has been cut—especially music. “Keeping any kind of music program going is a constant struggle for schools,” explains Beth Hollenbeck, music director at Scotts Valley High School. With minimal funding, teachers like her are often unable to afford sheet music and other necessary supplies, as well as chaperones to accompany students to competitions or concerts.
To keep music alive, The Gold Standard Barbershop Chorus—a local chapter of the nationwide Barbershop Harmony Society—has hosted “Sing For Your Life” for the past eight years. Since its inception, the annual choral concert benefit has raised more than $45,000 for local music programs.
Hollenbeck—whose students have benefitted from the event thanks to participation in 2007 and 2010—is stunned by the generosity of the Gold Standard Chorus. “What blows me away is that this organization has taken the time and effort to basically bring the community of school choirs together on this one day and put a focus on choral programs,” she says. “This Santa Cruz group has taken it upon themselves to coordinate and organize [the event] without any major benefit themselves. It’s such a selfless gesture that they do because they love choral music.”
Now in its ninth year, Sing For Your Life gives music students a chance to earn money for their schools, and an opportunity to perform in a big venue. “Last year through Sing For Your Life we sold enough tickets to earn almost $700 just from performing—and to be honest, it’s a thrill for the kids to perform at the Civic Auditorium,” says Hollenbeck. “It’s a great way to motivate students from the first day of school because they have something to work for right away, and the icing on your cake is that it’s a fundraiser.”
The beauty of the fundraiser is that it combines the motivation of a live performance with a friendly community atmosphere. “It’s a very supportive environment for the schools to come in and cheer each other on,” explains Hollenbeck. “There’s not that pressure to compete. The kids definitely have high standards for where they want to be at because they’re performing in front of friends and family, but everyone is equal and you do as well as [the effort] you put forth.”
Sing For Your Life has come a long way since its humble beginnings, thanks to support from the Santa Cruz community. Starting out with only one school (and the Gold Standard Chorus) performing in local auditoriums and churches, the event has grown to involve 10 schools and moved to the Civic Auditorium in 2010.
“The real message of the concert is [that] singing should be a part of our life and our culture— it’s something that you can continue doing after you get out of school,” says Jordan Johnson, director of the Gold Standard Chorus. “We’re providing an important additional source of support for school music programs. Thanks to funds from ticket sales, they’re able to buy new music, hire accompanists, [and] get sound systems that are capable of playing samples of music that the kids are trying to learn in class. All that stuff is considered by the school budgeting process to be extra, but it’s really important for the kids to learn and understand the music they’re studying.”
Sing For Your Life takes place at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, at the Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15/adv, $20/door. 420-5260. santacruztickets.com.