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BLUFFTON’S FUTURE MUSIC TEACHERS GIVE, SERVE

Ashley Regedanz presents a check for the Gilliom piano fund on behalf of the OCMEA chapter
Bluffton University students in the Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association have long made themselves available to work on fundraising projects off campus. But when the economy was on the rocks a couple years ago, "those projects dried up," recalls Dr. Jeffrey Boehm, a professor of music and the Bluffton chapter advisor. "We didn’t know what we were going to do."

What they did last year was find a new place to raise funds to cover the cost of their winter trip to the annual Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) conference. Their August 2010 weekend of work at Cedar Point amusement park was so successful that the group also decided to donate $500 to a fund earmarked for the purchase of a new grand piano for Bluffton’s music department.

And last month-soon after introducing nearby fourth graders to band instruments at the second annual Instrument "Petting Zoo"-the students learned that theirs had been named a 2011 Chapter of Excellence for service, one of only three in the country so honored by MENC: The National Association for Music Education.

"They’re very self-motivated and stay on top of things," says Boehm about the group, which has 17 members this year. After talking about ideas for activities with their advisor, "they get it figured out and they do it," he adds, saying the experience "prepares them for their future as music educators and as leaders in the field."

Also among those activities have been, for the last two years, cleanup after Bluffton High School home football games at Harmon Field; participation in the university’s Riley Creek Festival, where in 2009, for instance, chapter members manned a booth with musical games; and assistance at OMEA District III solo and ensemble and large group contests for junior high and high school students.

The group also regularly invites alumni and other speakers to come to campus for discussions of relevant topics, such as instrument repair, arts advocacy, the job interview process and substitute teaching.

Twelve chapter members participated in the fundraiser at Cedar Point, where they worked for about 20 hours over the last weekend in August in photo booths, gift shops and elsewhere in the park. They collected about $1,800, which "gave us more money to work with than we normally have," says Boehm, the group’s advisor for the last seven years. When the students realized money would be left over after the OMEA conference in January, the grand piano project came up, chapter President Ashley Regedanz remembers.

"As a group, we decided it was a good idea," says Regedanz, a senior from Spencerville, Ohio, who will graduate next December. "We were excited to be able to give back."

Bluffton’s class of 1961 has been raising money for the project as part of its 50th-year class gift to the university. Several music faculty and staff-along with all 38 current music majors-have donated to the fund as well.

The chapter’s $500 check was presented to Dr. Lucia Unrau, a professor and chair of music at Bluffton, at the department’s Winter Instrumental Concert in February. In addition to giving back, she says, "they saw it as a way to set an example for other students."

"They’ve always done a lot," she adds about the chapter, noting the addition last year of the Instrument Petting Zoo. That program has introduced Riverdale Local Schools’ fourth graders-whose music teacher, Beth Voll, is a Bluffton graduate-to instruments they could begin playing in fifth-grade band. "That’s one of the big things the students have offered to the community," Unrau says.

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Public relations office, 4/14/11