With Washington state’s general fund budget often in a tailspin, music and the arts at school districts are left with little funding to support quality programming.
In response, Derik Nelson, the guitarist seen on the hit TV show “Glee,” has launched his Take Chances Tour as a means to raise funding for schools across the West Coast. Nelson and his full pop-rock band will play a public 90-minute benefit concert Thursday night at Sumner High School as part of his 30-school tour. Sumner High School is the only school on the tour in the Pierce County-Tacoma area.
“My brother, sister and I grew up in public school,” said Nelson, a Northwest native originally from Tumwater. “We are passionate about the arts, music and about giving back, and we see the budget cuts really affecting these schools. We wanted an out-of-the-box way for schools to fund raise.”
Nelson anticipates each school along the tour to earn between $2,000 and $10,000 via the program.
For Karlene Miles, the choir director at Sumner High School, Nelson’s visit will be special. Miles is excited about the opportunity 300 students in choir and band from Bonney Lake and Sumner high schools will receive when Nelson presents a free master class about the arts and entertainment profession during the day.
“This will show students that they can set the bar high for themselves,” Miles said.
Riana Nelson, Derik’s sister and manager, said their team “provides an inspirational and educational lecture and Q&A about career opportunities.”
“Overall themes in the curriculum include camaraderie, dedication, focus and taking risks,” Riana Nelson said.
Miles said music and arts programs like the one in the Sumner School District don’t get much funding.
“We get more and more cuts,” Miles said. “It’s anywhere from $1.50 to $3 for a sheet of music. It’s just very expensive. We just have to be creative in how we buy things.”
Sheet music is purchased each school year for between 150 and 200 students in any one program, she said.
Miles said the music and arts program hopes to fill the Sumner Performing Arts Center to capacity when Nelson performs. The venue, located at Sumner High School, seats 900.
Carrie Scott, the Sumner School District music coordinator, also said it’s a unique opportunity for the student body and community.
“As music educators, we are so proud to see young, talented people like Derik doing wonderful things in their lives and for their communities,” Scott said.
Nelson said the reason for the tour is simple.
“I want a way to reach my fans, and I want to make a difference in arts and music education,” he said. “It’s a win-win.”
If you go
Derik Nelson will perform his Take Chances Tour concert at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Sumner School District Performing Arts Center at Sumner High School. Tickets are $15/$20 and can be purchased at the door or by calling the Sumner High School main office at 253-891-5500. For more information, visit www.deriknelson.com/tour.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.