Nonprofit hopes to rekindle Santa Rosa schools’ band programs

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A local nonprofit organization that raises money for school programs announced this week it plans to help Comstock Middle School’s recently resurrected band program achieve its goal of marching in next spring’s Rose Parade.

Schools Plus officials said the group planned to contribute about $18,000 to the band program. The money comes from a fundraising effort for local music programs the nonprofit launched at its annual October fundraiser. About $50,000 was raised for the music programs that night, in addition to another $150,000 that will go to other school-related causes.

Comstock Band teacher Mike Milbrath rebooted the school’s program this fall by spending the summer gathering up old instruments that had been loaned out to other schools and spiffing up supplies, but others were still needed.

The $18,000 raised by Schools Plus will help purchase uniforms, instruments and sheet music as well as pay for a part-time musical accompanist, said John Bribiescas, chairman of the board for the nonprofit.

In addition to the money going to Comstock, Schools Plus plans to donate about $21,000 to Piner High School to help restart the band program there, Bribiescas said. The high school, where many Comstock students go after they graduate middle school, doesn’t have a band currently.

“When Comstock kids graduate and go on, they’ve gotta have everything they need,” he said. About $10,000 will go to Elsie Allen High School’s band.

Bribiescas said he was shocked to learn last spring that neither Comstock nor Piner had a band.

“As closely as we work with local schools, we had no idea there was a large high school in town without a band,” he said.

His nonprofit then made it a priority to help.

“Music not only changes lives, it saves lives,” Bribiescas said.

Staff Writer Jamie Hansen blogs about education at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach her at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jamiehansen.

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