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Making noise for music ed

Community rides bikes, plays instruments at first “Musicycle”
Anton Wachmann, a music education major at Luther College, helps 12-year-old Maddie Schuh with clarinet fingering at the Iowa City Music Auxiliary’s “Musicycle” event Saturday, May 13, at Penn Meadows Park in North Liberty. (photo by Shianne Fisher)

NORTH LIBERTY– Over 500 underclassmen and around 100 upperclassmen are anticipated to christen the halls of Liberty High School in August. And, for the Iowa City Music Auxiliary, that means a third orchestra, band and choir to support.
“We use the money for transportation to festivals, entry fees for festivals and band uniform cleaning, mostly,” said Lisa Goodfellow-Mertens, past president of the auxiliary. “That dry cleaning adds up.”
That’s why the volunteer parent organization, tasked with providing additional support for the more than 3,000 musically-inclined fifth through 12th graders in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD), decided to bring back a spring fundraiser to boost donations.
“Musicycle,” a bicycle ride featuring an instrument “petting zoo,” took place Saturday, May 13, at Penn Meadows Park in North Liberty. Goodfellow-Mertens said about 50 riders signed up prior to the event.
“We thought if we had 50-100 riders that it would be a success for the first time,” she said. “It’s the right kind of event and it should gain some traction and hopefully blossom into a bigger thing.” She likened its potential to Iowa City’s annual Run for the Schools and said it could replace the auxiliary’s long-held Red and White Carnival, which had its last hoorah over 15 years ago.
Goodfellow-Mertens said although the idea of a musical bicycle ride wasn’t completely original (she got the idea from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls symphony director Jason Weinberger), there was some creative genius behind it.
“The Musicycle thing came out of my own head. I didn’t steal it from anybody,” she bragged. “But I did pick his (Weinberger’s) brain on how we could do something on a smaller scale, geared toward family.”
Bicyclists of all ages took to three separate routes– 2, 19 or 44 miles long– at the event. They traveled around the east side of North Liberty and as far as Oxford before returning to Penn Meadows, where West Music waited with violins, flutes, trombones and more for testing out.
“Our mission is play now, play for life,” said Katie Senn, retail sales, training and operations manager at West Music. “We really try to expand that and open ourselves to the adult learners as well as beginners.”
While no age limit was imposed on the petting zoo, the goal was to introduce younger children in the school district to instruments.
“It gave kids a real opportunity to touch them and feel them and just hopefully generate some excitement so when it comes to their turn, maybe they have a little exposure,” said Goodfellow-Mertens.
West Music, an elite business sponsor of the auxiliary, was one of several local businesses supporting the event. Others included Midwest One Bank, Streb Construction, Goodfellow Printing Company, World of Bikes, Born Leaders United and Crystal Clear Water.
Ryan Baker, owner of World of Bikes, said the event was an overall success. He and his employees not only helped with ride support but also planned the routes to make sure there was variety for different ages.
“For the kids’ route, I tried to find a route that wouldn’t cross any streets and that was short enough that any kid could ride but wasn’t just an around the park type ride,” he said. For the other, more adult routes, he picked well-known, scenic pathways.
“For a first year event, I think turnout was good,” he added. “Everybody seemed to be in good spirits and ready to do the ride.”
Proceeds from the event, which charged $30 per rider, will benefit the general auxiliary fund but could also directly impact students attending Liberty High come fall.
According to course offerings unveiled by Principal Scott Kibby in November, students will have a plethora of music extra-curriculars to choose from: show choir, three men’s concert choirs, one women’s concert choir, one advanced coed concert choir, marching band, jazz band, two concert bands, one symphonic band and one orchestra.
The high school will also offer two yearlong band courses, two yearlong choir courses, and one yearlong orchestra course for credit.
“I’ve always thought of the band as being the heartbeat of a high school,” said Ryan Arp, who will lead the Liberty band, via email. “I’m thrilled to establish traditions and school spirit with the students and share within the community.”
Other hires include choir director Rob Williams, from Pleasant Valley High School, and orchestra director Annie Savage, from Colorado.
Arp, who previously led Iowa City High’s jazz bands, praised the auxiliary’s efforts over the years.
“It’s so unique to have a group, regardless of boundaries, come together for a common goal of music in our schools,” he said. “It takes an army to make a school music program run and the music auxiliary has always helped with moral and financial support– especially with the All-State Festival, registrations, clinicians and transportation for our students to allow them the best musical experience.”
According to the ICCSD’s annual progress report for the 2015-16 school year, the auxiliary operates on a roughly $80,000 budget and is supported by over 850 families, individuals and businesses.
For more information about the Iowa City Music Auxiliary, visit http://www.iowacitymusicauxiliary.org.