One School at a Time: Penn High School jazz band receives $1,000 grant

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - If we’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it’s how to adapt. And for local schools, that challenge is still being met. With the help of Martin’s Super Market’s One School at a Time $1,000 grant, Penn High School in Mishawaka will be able to improve its music equipment.

When jazz music is made at Penn High School, something special happens.

Kids forget about the rest of the world and focus on the music.

Penn High School junior Phillip Matous plays piano. He says music is a huge part of his life.

“I’ve been playing piano for ten years, so coming here and playing jazz was a new step for me in my music career,” said Matous. “It really just allows me to kind of go to a place where I can just not worry about anything. I don’t have to worry about my grades. I don’t have to worry about what I’m doing this weekend, I just play and have fun.”

And yet, the reminders of a pandemic are ever present.

Penn senior, Josh Simnick plays the sousaphone and bass trombone. Black fabric covers the bell.

“This is what we do at our school -to try to prevent the spread of corona,” said Simnick.

The pandemic changed a lot of things at Penn.

“We started the year in that virtual environment and obviously virtual jazz band is something we’ve never done before, so I have to give a lot of props to the students for their hard work,” said Aaron Griesser, Penn High School band director.

It can be difficult to instruct children how to play an instrument in person, let alone, virtually. How did he do it?

“A lot of trial and error and a lot of experimentation,” said Griesser. “These guys will tell you it wasn’t always perfect, a lot of hiccups along the way.”

One major hiccup: cancelled concerts.

“One of the biggest fundraising events that we do, is a concert and a dinner called ‘Evening of Jazz’,” said Griesser.

Normally held in February, the event was moved to May, to an outdoor venue.

“This year we’re going to offer it as a free program for anyone who wants to join us for the concert, it will be at Central Park in Mishawaka,” said Griesser.

But before that can happen, the jazz band will need new sound equipment.

Pricey items made possible with the help of Martin’s Super Markets. Martin’s presented a $1,000 check to the Penn jazz band during a virtual meeting.

“For us it’s sort of the culmination of a goal of trying to obtain the best sound equipment that we can. For our students to be able to have more live performances, in bigger venues and more outdoor spaces,” said Griesser.

In the meantime, practice makes perfect.

“It’s probably my favorite class here. It’s really awesome for me to come here and just take an hour out of my day and play music with all of these people,” said Matous.

The concert will be held Thursday, May 13 at 6pm at Central Park, Mishawaka. Admission is free.

Remember if you would like to nominate your school for a One School at a Time grant, click here to enter your school.

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