You’d never know it from the extravagant production numbers on FOX’s hit series “Glee” (no problem, Mr. Schuester, the shop class can whip up a working elevator for you), but school music departments across the country are starved for resources. So who better than “Glee” to help support music education.
The “Glee Give a Note” contest will hand out a total of $1 million in prize money to schools participating in the competition. Lane Tech College Prep High School, 2501 W. Addison, is among roughly 300 contenders for the grand prize of $50,000, and the school needs your votes to propel it into the final judging round.
In a music video that spoofs Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” retitled “New Instrument Rhapsody,” Lane students lament their 100-year-old piano, cracked cello, broken tuba and twisted trombone. Sample lyric: “My oboe just died, sometimes I wish I never played at all.”
Mark Carrera, music department chair and choir director at Lane, help shepherd the students’ submission. (His twin brother, Paul, also a Lane music instructor, wrote and arranged the song.) He estimates that more than 1,000 students at Lane are involved in music classes; the school offers a music major and courses include band, orchestra, chorus and guitar. “Less than 10 percent of our kids own their own instruments,” he says. The school rents out instruments for $50 a year (“Anywhere else, it would be $50 a month,” Carrera says) and over time, horns, violins and pianos have taken a beating.
With $50,000, Carrera could splurge on a new piano ($15,000), an upright bass ($10,000) or both. “That’s stuff we could never buy,” he says. Heck, he’d even settle for the lesser first- and second-place prizes of $25,000 or $10,000. “We’re hoping for the top prize, but we’ll take anything.”
For students, it’s impossible to put a price on the value of music education. “When kids go through our program, music becomes part of their lives,” Carrera says. “It gives them something they can participate in, be successful at and enjoy for the rest of their lives.” In fact, 40 Lane graduates have gone on to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
About the Contest
Head to the “Glee Give a Note” website to view and vote for Lane Tech’s video. Voting is open through November 7; individuals are allowed one vote per day, per IP address. Entries are divided into five geographic regions; top vote-getters in each region will move on to the final judging round, with members of the National Association for Music Education selecting the ultimate winners. Three overall grand prizes will be awarded, along with two first-place and 12 second-place winners in each region.
Carrera is the first to admit that every entrant is deserving of the prize money. “There are some compelling stories,” he says, pointing to Joplin High School, which saw its building demolished this past spring by an EF5 tornado. Even Carrera is pulling for the kids from Missouri, whose video should not be viewed without Kleenex. “They’re in a different region,” he says. “We hope they win. How can you vote against that.”