Arnold project nets downtown school new sound system
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Dec 19, 2013 | 1383 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Arnold sound system
FIFTH-GRADERS at Arnold Elementary look to Siema Swartzel for their music cues at the recent Christmas concert.  Contributed photo, MIKE CHAI
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Arnold Elementary Parent Teacher Organization President Jen Cornett decided it was past time for the local school to have its own sound system for concerts, plays and community events.

A goal was set to have a sound system in by Tuesday, Dec. 10, for the annual Christmas concert.

“In my wildest dreams I thought we could do this,” Cornett said. “I thought I needed to stay positive.”

According to Cornett, the fundraising effort received a boost from the local Horace Mann Insurance Company. An agent informed Principal Mike Chai of the corporate office’s efforts to help schools through Teachers can place school projects online for individuals, groups, organizations and companies across the country to finance through donations.

Arnold Music teacher Siema Swartzel joined the effort by writing up a description of the project and class need. She requested $800 to purchase eight wireless microphones. Horace Mann Insurance company donated $400 to the project. An anonymous donor paid the remaining half within the first week.

Donations covered the cost for four lavaliers and four wireless hand-held microphones. Wireless microphones bought separately frequently need their signals fine tuned. Purchasing the eight items in one package was a boon as each has a different established signal.

Encouraged by the quick response, Cornett and Swartzel pursued a second donation request. This time Swartzel wrote about the need for a soundboard. Another anonymous donor gave $400 to cover the first half of the $800 price tag.

The race was on. Projects which receive partial funding have a set time to gain full sponsorship. PTO members, parents of students and friends of the school rose the occasion. Within two days the remaining $400 was raised.

Both ladies were elated.

“Our kids need this stuff, and we know it will make a better experience for them,” Swartzel said. “They’ve known a lot of failure in their life. We are really trying to set them up so that there is success.”

Continued Swartzel, “Success breeds success. When they are successful in one area, they are more likely to try in another.”

Spurred on by the two triumphant requests, Swartzel teamed up with fellow Arnold teacher Matt Ingram. Ingram sought money to purchase JBL speakers. His involvement opened the door for another anonymous donation to cover half of the requested funds. According to Swartzel, she was only eligible for two requests with partial sponsorship.

Once again the anonymous donor covered half of the costs. A letter was then written to the community for funds to match the donation. Arnold’s Alumni Association suggested key individuals with an interest in the local school.

“Our area is in love with this school,” Cornett said of the old downtown district. “This is where they grew up. This is where their parents went to school. We wanted to spread the news to let them know what was happening at Arnold.”

Speakers, a sound board and wireless microphones were all needed before the Christmas concert. Checks from community members ranging from $25 to $500 made the goal attainable. The new equipment was used the night of the concert to show off Arnold’s musical abilities.

Students from every grade level worked hard for weeks to prepare for the concert. Recent events have used either expensive rental equipment or a three-microphone fender system unable to handle solo performances. Swartzel said she wanted all of the children to be heard in this year’s concert.

“I believe this is invaluable for our students. When we have a program, we want them to be heard,” Swartzel said. “That is powerful. Children sometimes feel they do not have a voice and this gives them one.”

Ingram and Swartzel are currently working to raise money for an amplifier. Additional projects will raise funds for a DVD and CD player, a cabinet to secure the soundboard and speakers for above and below the balcony. The JBL speakers purchased through the third project will be placed halfway up the wall on either side of the stage.

Cornett and Swartzel are grateful to both the anonymous donor and the community.

“I just think it brings the community together in a good way,” Cornett said of the fundraising effort. “A lot of times communities come together through tragedy, but this is a positive experience. We have this need people are coming together on, and it is beautiful to think about.”

Swartzel, Ingram and the students are busy creating thank-you packages for the online donors. Each package will be complete with pictures from the concert and thank-you notes from the children.