Live music filled the auditorium for the first time in more than a decade Tuesday at D'Youville Porter Campus School 3, Porter Avenue and Niagara Street.
Granted, the sound wasn't coming from the $25,000 worth of string instruments given to the school under "Save the Music," a program to restore music education to all city grade schools within five years. Some fine-tuning is needed before the little folks can play violins made for grown-ups.
Instead, the schoolchildren and adults snapped their fingers to a saxophone duet performed by Schools Superintendent James Harris, a onetime Motown session musician, and Kevin E. Kazmierczak, the district's new supervisor of instrumental music.
The jam session highlighted a press conference celebrating the donation of instruments valued at $125,000 to five schools by "Save the Music," sponsored by VH1 and Adelphia Communications Corp.
"This is just the beginning," promised Robert B. Morrison, the cable music channel's vice president of public affairs.
VH1, Morrison said, believes music is vital to a well-rounded education and must be taught "not so we can create the next Mozart, but so we can create the next George Soros, Katherine Graham or John Rigas," referring to, respectively, the billionaire philanthropist, the Washington Post publisher and the Adelphia chairman.
In less than three years, VH1 and its partners, including Adelphia, have raised millions to implement 350 school music programs in 30 cities.
Morrison challenged the community to join the cause, "so that at the end of five years every schoolchild in the district will have the opportunity to be involved in a music program."
The schools are rising to the occasion under Harris, who made the restoration of music education a priority.
He recently hired Kazmierczak, a veteran of West Seneca and North Tonawanda schools, who said the supervisory job "has been on the organizational chart for many, many years but was never filled."
Kazmierczak said he aims to follow up on the donation of new instruments to Triangle Academy School 28, School 40, School 43 and Frederick Law Olmsted School 67, by refurbishing the older instruments available to students in other schools.
Many of those instruments "are in terrible condition," he noted.
In addition, the School Board has added four or five music teachers to the elementary school payroll annually for the last five years, said Alfred Jarrett, a veteran music teacher and administrator.
Before the kids at School 3 can start learning on the new violins, the instruments must be adjusted for shorter arms and smaller fingers.
"We're in the process of fitting the students," principal Mark Frazier said.
Recalling music's influence on his own childhood, Rigas said he was proud of Adelphia's role in reviving music education for Buffalo children.
"This is a wonderful, wonderful day for me personally," he said. "I've always been kind of surprised we abandoned music the way we did, although I understand the reasons."
The return of music to the School 3 curriculum has been cheered by parents as well as students, Frazier said.
"We've undertaken many initiatives at this school, but the enthusiasm generated by this program is unmatched by anything else we've done."