Alex Ferderer is the director of a new choral music program at Open World Learning (OWL) Community, a grade 6-12 school in St. Paul, MN. As music programs across the nation are being cut or disappearing completely, St. Paul Public Schools saw the value in creating a completely new program for their students. The program has been wildly popular, with 300 of OWL’s total student population of 450 middle and high school students participating in the program last year. In 2019 alone, 30 students at OWL were selected for competitive city and state honors choirs.
“The program has taught students music from diverse cultures, fostered teamwork, and, most importantly, created an environment where people feel welcomed and heard,” Alex said.
Because the OWL choral program is new, it needs many basic supplies in order to support the instructional and performance needs of the group and to accommodate growth. Donations will go toward piano tuning, sheet music, new books for a ukulele class, microphones, sound equipment, choral shells, risers, and other classroom and performance needs.
Alex and his students have big dreams and goals to take their program to the next level. The only barriers they face are financial ones, but you can help.
“The number of students your donation will help is incredible,” Alex said. “A gift to our program will benefit not only my 300 students this year, but also thousands of students in years to come, because the items purchased will be used every year in the program going forward.”
(Your donation will be matched!)
Dr. Tom Arenson is a lover of the arts. Tom pledged $1,000 as a matching donation challenge to support Alex’s classroom because he believes in his work.
“One of the things that caught my attention with Alex is that he’s obviously very passionate about teaching choral groups, and about his students,” Tom said. “By committing dollars to this challenge match, I can be a partner in helping to make something really magical happen in his classroom. I believe that the arts have the potential to change students’ lives forever. With this donation I feel like I am contributing to making that happen for students at OWL.”
Born in Southcentral Minnesota, Tom’s high school choir director helped develop his love for singing, which led him to join the Harvard Glee Club in college.
“That was a very good experience for me, and a really important part of my life, because there were expectations of really working hard in a collaborative way,” Tom said. “Choral groups can have some of the same benefits as participating in a team sport. There’s so much good to bringing people together who might not necessarily have anything to do with each other otherwise. That experience of being a part of a strong choral group was, in some ways, a more valuable part of my college experience than my medical studies.”
Alex also spoke about the valuable life skills acquired by students through participation in a choral group. “I think that the arts are one of the only ways students can learn to express and convey emotion,” he said. “I think it’s a reflective class for students. They come and talk about cultural events and we get to tie that into music and into life. In some classes, students work individually. But with choir, you’re constantly working with maybe 70 people. As a director, I’m creating an environment where students feel safe to make mistakes, to trust one another, and to work together.”
Your support will help OWL students during a vital year with big goals and opportunities ahead of them. OWL choirs will represent the city of Saint Paul at the Minnesota State Choral Conductor’s conference. They also have dreams to go on another choir tour.
Help the OWL choir reach their dreams, plus double your donation with a match from Tom, here.