Tom Higgenson of the Grammy-nominated pop group Plain White T’s made a surprise visit to Darwin Elementary School in Logan Square on September 19 to announce a $30,000 donation of band equipment to the school. But the real star of the day was someone Darwin students see everyday and call “Mister P.”
For Joe Panganiban, Darwin’s second year music teacher, this was the culmination of what he called a “marathon of grant writing.” Darwin Elementary reintroduced music to their curriculum as part of the Full School Day for school year 2012-13. Their first step was hiring Panganiban who in the months ahead built partnerships that brought the music department new guitars, ukuleles, music stands and curriculum.
But the school still lacked the instruments to start a band. Now Houlihans Restaurants has donated 8 flutes, 11 clarinets, 6 trumpets, 3 alto saxophones and percussion equipment through the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. The foundation has helped steer $49.5 million in new musical instruments to 1,850 public schools in more than 192 school districts around the country, impacting the lives of over 2.1 million children.
“This is a great day for our students. Today they get free t-shirts, but going forward it will give generations of students the gift of music,” Panganiban said. He estimates that 50 students will take advantage of the band instruments this school year.
Panganiban first applied for the grant last winter, touching off a thorough grant process that included numerous VH1 visits to the school to assess the potential of their music program and their commitment to continuing and building it.
In addition to this grant, Panganiban has formed partnerships with the Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony and Little Kids Rock and the music department has received significant help from individual donors via Donor Choose.
“It takes a lot of effort to get to a day like today, and there’s no way we could have done it without our amazing administration,” Panganiban said. “They’ve supported this effort every step along the way and have made a long-term commitment to music education for the students of Darwin Elementary.”
Panganiban has one more idea in his long-term plan – a return visit by the Plain White T’s sometime in the Spring. “We’re talking with VH1 about having the whole band out here in the Spring. I know the kids would love to have them. And we have some musicians here who’ve been learning to play ‘Hey Delilah’ and would like to show it off.”