The legendary actor Marlon Brando appears on the cover of one of the Beatles’ albums. Lady Gaga’s birth name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. U2’s song, “Angel of Harlem,” written by Bono, is an homage to Billie Holiday.
Those tidbits of trivia may be rather useless to you, unless you find yourself as a participant in a trivia contest in which such knowledge is not trivial at all.
Not so trivial, however, is the challenge public schools face in properly funding their visual arts, theater and music programs.
So, the Burbank High School Instrumental Music Association recently decided to stage an online trivia contest to benefit the school’s band program.
Billed as a Music Trivia Night and held on Feb. 9, the virtual fundraiser was emceed by Burbank High School’s jazz band leader Tracy Henry and featured special guest hosts, actors and Burbank residents W. Earl Brown, who starred in HBO’s “Deadwood” and recently appeared in the Disney+ show “The Mandalorian,” and Diandra Lyle, who plays the role of Jess Dunn in the Disney Channel’s “The Secrets of Sulphur Springs.”
Staged in partnership with the national online music trivia platform Deep Cut Trivia, participating supporters were able to compete for a donation of $5, make a further donation if they chose to do so, keep up with the action via Zoom, and then submit their answers through either their phone or computer in hopes of winning a prize.
Brian Hay, who has an extensive background in the recording industry, is a supporter and volunteer who serves on the BHS IMA’s parent fundraising committee. The father of a 16-year-old sophomore who plays drums in the school’s jazz band, Hay said it has been very challenging to raise money for the program in the current environment.
“We figured that because everyone now knows how to use Zoom, doing an online fundraiser would be a great way to not only raise funds, but to also unite some of the parents who have not participated in our past fundraisers,” said Hay. “And we were thrilled that Earl and Diandra were willing to be so supportive and help us raise funds that will go toward the purchase of instruments and supplies and take care of instrument repair.”
The trivia challenge itself, composed of three rounds, saw first-, second- and third-place prizes awarded that had been donated by local businesses, including Porto’s Bakery, Technicolor and Warner Records.
The BHS IMA, which encompasses jazz and wind bands, string and symphonic orchestras, a marching band, color guard and winter percussion (a competitive drumming ensemble), provides students with the skills they need to be a musician while also helping them to grow into thoughtful, sensitive, caring, articulate and well-rounded adults.
Annie Cavanaugh, who just came to Burbank High School last year as the musical director, is a graduate of Brigham Young University. Along with being an educator with Burbank Unified, she is also a parent of three girls who attend school in the district.
“It’s an understatement to say I have taken over at a unique time,” Cavanaugh said with a laugh.
“Virtual teaching is challenging. Just learning the student’s names and putting a face to the name is a challenge in itself,” Cavanaugh continued. “But I know it is much more of a challenge for our students. One of my students recently told me that his home used to be where he went to get away from the pressures of school — a place to rest, relax and retreat from the worries of the world — but that during the pandemic his entire world has become combined within the four walls of his family’s home. He felt that he no longer has a place to go to retreat.”
Cavanaugh, who has experienced the negative results of the pandemic from both a teacher’s standpoint as well as that of a parent, said she finds it to be heartbreaking that kids are missing so many of the special moments and experiences of school life, especially those associated with a student’s senior year.
“It is a completely different world for these kids,” she opined. “The quarantine’s impact on kids is really different depending on their personalities. I have seen introverts who are thriving, but who are not getting what they need in being pushed into more social interactions. As for the extroverts — it is really hard on them. I have one daughter who is a real social butterfly. She schedules herself to be online as much as she possibly can with school-related work just for the interaction.”
Asked what advice she is giving her students to survive these challenging times, Cavanaugh said she is telling them to persevere.
“Throughout this pandemic the thing I have done the most is to encourage my students to keep playing music,” she said. “These students are in our program because music is their passion. It is a creative outlet, and the pandemic has no power to stop them from embracing their passion and making music. Last year, one of my seniors said they didn’t think they would ever be able to hear what they all sounded like making music together, but by using creative techniques of recording, editing and mixing we have been able to do that, and on May 14 we will be presenting a virtual pops concert that will be streamed through Twitch. So that’s my advice: Just keep making music.”
For more information on the Burbank High School Instrumental Music Program, the upcoming May 14 streaming concert, fundraising events and support opportunities, visit bhsima.com.
David Laurell may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.