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Jefferson Award Winner Keeps Music From Being Silenced In Schools

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Sharon-Chin_BIO-HEAD Sharon Chin
Sharon Chin is a general assignment reporter who also profiles...
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CONCORD (KPIX 5) — When budget cuts began to slash music programs in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, one woman jumped in to keep it from being silenced altogether. Now this Jefferson Award winner is helping keeping music alive for students.

At age 17, Fedra Britvic composes her own music.

“It’s a way to express yourself through music and show people how you care,” Britvic explained.

She’s grateful to Joan Miller, not just for her private lessons, but for keeping the music program going at her school.

“It opens you up to a whole world of things that you can do,” said Miller.

Miller gives instrument and voice lessons for a living. But when the Mt Diablo Unified School District cut 4th and 5th grade music instrument classes in 2009 and 2010, she helped start the Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation. The nonprofit raises corporate and individual donations for music festivals and school programs, from transportation costs to classes and equipment.

One beneficiary is the Northgate High School jazz band, which won the honor to perform at this fall’s Monterey Jazz Festival.

Miller said she wants the students to get an opportunity.

“We take, we deny,” she explained. “This is an education that lasts a lifetime.”

The music foundation has provided more than $65,000 to fund music programs in Contra Costa County schools.

This fall, the non-profit is paying for 30 new guitars at College Park High School. Now 100 students can take lessons.

“It’s absolutely vital to have this foundation support us in this way,” said director Bruce Rockwell.

Board member Brian Beckon called Miller the “confident conductor.”

“It’s not just a project to take up space in her life,” Beckon explained. “It’s something she believes passionately about.”

It’s made a difference for Fedra Britvic:

“I can’t imagine not having music in my life, especially not having Joan in my life.”

So for raising money to keep music alive in the Mt Diablo school district, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Joan Miller.

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