Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is giving a piano concert at a private residence March 27 to raise money for the Salida Performing Arts Foundation.
The 2½-year-old nonprofit supports the arts in Salida schools and has the backing of Broadway legend and Modesto resident Carol Channing. Funds for music are needed more than ever as the financially strapped Salida Union School District is considering cutting at least three music teacher positions.
Tickets to Rice's concert will cost $500 a person or $5,000 for a table of eight, including dinner. She will perform with accomplished cellist Michael Reynolds and tenor Dennis McNeil, who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera, among others.
There is space for 176 audience members at the black-tie-optional affair, said Kim Spina, co-founder of Salida Performing Arts and a Modesto City Schools board member.
"Before the invitations went out, we sold half of our sponsorships," Spina said. "We've had a lot of calls from people who want to attend. It's a neat ensemble we have coming."
Rice was the second woman to hold the position of secretary of state. She was President George W. Bush's national security adviser in his first term, which was marked by the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the war on terrorism.
She became Bush's secretary of state in his second term, a period in which the Bush administration changed its strategy in the Iraq war to tamp down tensions in what had become a civil war among ethnic and religious factions.
Back in the academic world
Since leaving the White House, Rice has returned to academia. She is a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. She had been the university's provost from 1993 to 1999.
She is an accomplished pianist who at age 15 performed Mozart's "Piano Concerto in D minor" with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Before college, she planned to pursue a music career.
Last year, Rice signed with the Wil- liam Morris Agency to assist her with "philanthropic efforts involving classical music and college educations for disadvantaged students, as well as initiatives to help U.S. children become global citizens," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Working in partnership with the national Classics for Kids Foundation, the Salida Performing Arts Foundation hopes to provide violins for all 100 of Sisk Elementary School's fourth-graders as part of a string immersion program. To date, the foundation has provided 30 violins.
"We think it's important for them to have the experience of playing a musical instrument," said Brad Friley, co-founder of the Salida Performing Arts Foundation, and an instrumental and general music teacher at Sisk and Salida elementary schools. "Without this money it would be very difficult for the kids to have an instrument in these difficult economic times."
Helping 'special needs' students
As an example of the program's value, Friley cited one "special needs" student who has blossomed with the music lessons. The student normally needs a one-on-one aide in his regular classes because he has difficulty sitting still. But when he plays violin, he doesn't need any assistance and does well.
While he is concerned about the possible budget cuts at his district, Friley is convinced that Salida residents will make sure music education continues.
"I know that the community feels very strongly about music and the performing arts," said Friley, who has taught in the district 22 years.
Getting Rice to support the cause is a big help. Matthew Buckman, director of Modesto's Townsend Opera Players, said his group has never had a fund-raiser like that.
"I think it's wonderful for any organization to have an opportunity to raise money with a prominent person, and I hope there are people willing to pay to hear Ms. Rice perform and support that organization," Buckman said.
On the Net:
Salida Performing Arts Foundation, www.salidaarts.org.