Music is worth the investment

April 4, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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The first article I ever wrote for Newcastle News was a 2011 feature about the Renton School District’s after-school music program, East Hill String Lessons.

I was a journalism student at the University of Washington at the time, and little did I know, I would get the opportunity to become the paper’s full-time reporter a year later.

Christina Corrales-Toy

Christina Corrales-Toy

That story about a group of Hazen orchestra students that tutor young students from the district, has always stuck with me, though.

I remember the way the Hazen seniors affectionately referred to their pupils as “cherubs.” I can picture the tutors carefully instructing the young students. Most of all, though, I can visualize the way the Hazen students’ faces lit up when they spoke about what the district’s music program meant to them.

I had the opportunity to see that same passion again in March as I worked on a feature about the Hazen High School and McKnight Middle School music programs.

I saw the concert choir members beam with pride as I asked them what was special about Hazen’s music program. I listened as McKnight’s seventh-grade choir eagerly performed a song for me.

McKnight orchestra teacher Sharon Olsen said it best when she noted how important these music classes are for the students.

“Sometimes, this is the only reason some of those kids come to school,” she said.

Participation does not appear to be a problem at Hazen and McKnight. All of the classes I visited were full, highlighted by the 86 students in Hazen’s concert choir.

“We’ve got the kids in here. We just need stuff to put in their hands,” Hazen choir teacher Josh Viles said.

Whether it is sheet music or instrument repair and replacement, each of the music programs could use something. That’s why the Friends of the Renton Schools launched a March campaign to raise funds.

Not everyone has access to music education. Instruments and music lessons aren’t cheap, but all students deserve a chance to participate with tools that do not hinder their learning.

Donate to Renton School District music programs at


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