School Bulletin: Music grant elevates arts program

School Bulletin: Music grant elevates arts program

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee charter school won't miss a beat all thanks to a grant from Summerfest and American Family Insurance. But a dedicated music teacher also deserves some credit.

"What can we do to make their lives their very best when they're with us? And what kinds of experiences and exposures can I give?" Heather Mabini, of Woodlands School, says. "That's what really my bottom line is every day."

Mabini says she applied for the Let the Music Play grant program this fall, and then right before winter break, she got the good news. Woodlands was awarded funding to help pay for two new full-sized, digital keyboards and a humidifier to keep all of instruments from falling flat.

"Currently we have acoustic pianos, which are really difficult to keep in tune, and also just maintain," Mabini says. "We're not in an air-conditioned building, so the temperatures and the humidity really affect its sound."

Mabini says White House of Music, a family-owned instrument store, helped secure the equipment for Woodlands and offered a generous discount to make the music room upgrades a reality. And that's not the only partnership the teacher has forged with the community.

School officials say all 370 students have access to lessons and performances from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

"You just keep making those connections," Mabini says. "That way we as a Milwaukee community can continue to grow and prosper."

Woodlands Principal Liz Kayzar says its own arts program has been growing this year. The school has brought back the choir and offered more lessons with string instruments. Kayzar says drama and theater options will also be coming. She says since the COVID-19 pandemic paused student shows, it's been great to see the kids take advantage of these opportunities and build confidence.

"You see kids maybe struggle in one area but get to beam in someplace else," Kayzar says. "In the performance-based areas, [we] just let kids have their own identities. They develop into themselves."

"As a mom and as a teacher, I'm just in heaven to see that growth," Mabini says.

The school has put the new keyboards to good use already and recently hosted a student showcase. Kayzar and Mabini both say they are looking forward to using them again at graduation this spring.

But these gifts to Woodlands will last well into the future. Mabini says it will all help generations of students learn and continue make connections outside of the classroom.

"I like to believe what I'm teaching them is lifelong skills to appreciate music and to have music in their lives in all different capacities," Mabini says. "What brought that movie or that video game to life? It's music."

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