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Grant allows Britt Festivals to bring music to the schools

The Britt Festivals next year will take jazz to Illinois Valley schools, thanks to a $4,500 grant from the Oregon Arts Commission.

The money will support a weeklong visit by New York City-based jazz musician and arts educator Hayes Greenfield, who will present teacher training workshops at all three Illinois Valley schools, so that teachers "will have more skills to integrate art into all their lesson plans," said Rachel Jones, Britt's direct education and community engagement officer.

Greenfield also will do one free public performance.

"Students in underserved areas like the Illinois Valley rarely have exposure to jazz music," said Jones. "They don't have the means to bring students to Medford or Ashland to see the arts, so we're bringing the arts to them."

The schools, Evergreen Elementary School, Lorna Byrne Middle School and Illinois Valley High School have all had deep budget cuts and lost music instruction positions, she added, noting that Greenfield, a saxophonist, will leave behind hand percussion instruments and recorders so teachers can continue instruction in music.

The OAC also gave a $3,000 grant to the Rogue Valley Chorale to support Spring Sing Concerts in Medford schools and to increase student awareness about arts involvement outside schools and "share the joy of singing and exposing students to choral work presented by peers," according to an OAC statement.

The grant to the Peter Britt Gardens Music and Arts Festival Association supports the Jazz-a-Ma-Tazz education program during April, national Jazz Appreciation Month. Greenfield's public performance will be accompanied by musicians from Selma.

"The program in the Illinois Valley will increase confidence, imagination, creative expression, cooperation and problem-solving," said Jones, adding that Britt has presented educational music programs in 95 schools in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Jones said the program was developed after a music director in the Illinois Valley approached her, saying, "people forget about us out here" and this project seemed "a perfect fit."

The OAC awarded 24 grants totaling $112,000 in the 16th year of its Arts Build Communities grant program. The OAC received 54 proposals, seeking more than $300,000. The grants are made in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Oregon's arts nonprofit and creative sectors use the arts to improve lives in communities of every size across the state," said Julie Vigeland, who chaired the grant review panel. "This year's funded projects reflect the work, planning and partnership developed to respond to some of the most pressing concerns in Oregon."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.