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Organization: College of the Canyons
Date: November 20, 2009
College of the Canyons Orchestra Member Gives Back, Goes for the Gold
SANTA CLARITA — In keeping with the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra (SCVYO) Foundation's mission to help keep music education available to all students, one long-time student orchestra member has taken those efforts a step further by organizing a fundraising concert and instrument drive to benefit the Newhall School District (NSD) music program.
    As part of a Girl Scouts of the USA Gold Award project, COC Symphony of the Canyons violinist Shaira Bhanji, 18, has set up a musical instrument and equipment donation drive that will culminate with a benefit concert featuring the Symphony of the Canyons student orchestra.
    "I knew that I wanted to base my Gold Award project on music in Santa Clarita because music has had such a profound impact on my life," said Bhanji, a product of the NSD music program who originally began playing the violin as a fourth-grader at Peachland Elementary School. "I wanted to be able to share that impact with other children in our community."
    The concert will take place at 3 p.m., Saturday, December 5, at the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church located at 26640 Bouquet Canyon Road, in Santa Clarita.
    Admission is $7 and tickets can be purchased at the door. All proceeds raised will be used to buy instruments and music equipment for students in the NSD music department.
    In addition, community members interested in donating used instruments and/or musical equipment to the NSD music program — including violins, clarinets, recorders, cellos and flutes, instrument cases, bows, shoulder rests, reeds, music books, rosin and music stands etc. — may drop off their donations on the day of the concert or contact Ms. Bhanji to make other arrangements.
    "The Newhall School District music program is what made me fall in love with music," said Bhanji. "If not for that program I may have never started to play the violin, and the many opportunities I've received since then would not have existed for me."
    Donations that are collected during the drive will be added to the NSD music program's dwindling supply of instruments and circulated to students throughout the district as part of the program's instrument loan system.
    "We are thrilled to be a part of the Gold Award service project that Shaira has envisioned. In these times, more and more families are finding the cost of an instrument to be prohibitive," said Tara Speiser, NSD instrumental music instructor. "This is a very benevolent gesture on Shaira's part, and one that will have a lasting impression on the lives of many students."
     The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award that a Girl Scout aged 14 to 18 may attain. According to Girl Scouts USA, last year approximately 5,500 girls — or about 5.4 percent of the eligible registered Girl Scouts in grades 10 through 12 — received the Gold Award.
     Described as being 'what you really want to be remembered for' in Girl Scouting, the leadership, organizational skills, sense of community and commitment that come from 'going for the Gold' often set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.
    "Being a Girl Scout has been an amazing experience," said Bhanji, who has been a scout since kindergarten and has already received her Girl Scout Silver Award. "But I felt like my career in girl scouting would be incomplete if I didn't receive a Gold Award. That's why I wanted to tackle this project.
    "Music opens an incredible amount of doors for a child. It opens their mind and their future," added Bhanji. "A lack of instruments shouldn't be the reason a child is deprived an opportunity that could change their life."
    The SCVYO Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports the three, student instrumental performing groups at College of the Canyons: the Prelude Strings, Intermediate Orchestra and the Symphony of the Canyons.
    As one of the few orchestral music programs available to youth in the Los Angeles area, the SCVYO Foundation seeks to provide an instrumental music education program for students eight years old and above, regardless of ability to pay.
    "We are proud of Shaira for the accomplished violinist she has become, the active role she plays in her community and the fine example she has set for other young musicians," said Paul Sherman, director of the COC orchestras.
    For community members unable to attend the Gold Award benefit concert the afternoon of December 5, the COC Symphony of the Canyons will also perform alongside the Canyons Prelude Strings and Intermediate Orchestra during the College of the Canyons music department's Winter Spectacular concert at 7 p.m., Saturday, December 5, on the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center (PAC) main stage.
    For more information about the Symphony of the Canyons concert to benefit the Newhall School District music department or to make donation arrangements please contact Shaira Bhanji at (661) 255-8676 or shairabhanji@yahoo.com.
    For more information about the COC music department's Winter Spectacular, or to purchase tickets please call the PAC box office at (661) 362-5304 or visit www.canyonsPAC.com.
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