In September of 2008, a dream to reach out to mostly impoverished neighborhood children was realized. Garmon Ashby and Rosalind Garcia, then Music Director and Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries, envisioned a free after-school program that would provide music education and homework help in a safe nurturing location four days a week. Thus, the After-School Music Program (ASMP) was born. A Board of parishioners formed to lead the program. That first year 4 students were walked from Rio Vista School to St. Philip’s Mondays through Thursdays.
During the first 5 years, the program grew and developed. Bruce Phillips, assistant in Children, Youth, and Family Ministries, was hired as Director and added 10 hours to his schedule, and Garmon added time to his schedule. They became the only paid staff. Sally Gunderman was the first Chair of the Board and continued this for the first 5 years. By November of 2008, Laura Rubbo had become the volunteer coordinator. This quickly became the central job of the program, as it is staffed almost entirely by volunteers. She continued this important leadership until Nancy Atherton took over the position in 2011. A graduate assistant, Addie Akin, was hired from the University of Arizona to assist with the choral and music training. Mary Lonsdale Baker was the first violin teacher and coordinator and continued through the first 5 years before retiring. Wilma Hansen was the first piano teacher, followed in 2011 by Kay Couch, who now teaches and coordinates all 17 volunteer piano teachers and practice supervisors. They teach 15 piano students.
The second year it became necessary to hire a van to bring the children from the school, and by the third year Holaway School had been added and 20 children were attending. We are presently using our third van company, Ez Way Shuttle, a family-run company. Manny and his wife Maria have become excellent partners with us.
In 2011, after Garmon took a new job in Texas, he most generously asked that people donate to the ASMP instead of giving him a purse. The Garmon Ashby Legacy Fund was formed with $10,600 for an emergency fund. The church began a search process for the new Director of Music. That year everyone worked extra hard, and Addie Akin, who had been the graduate assistant the year before, was hired to handle the entire children’s choir program as well as the ASMP choir. Woosug Kang was hired as St. Philip’s Director of Music and started in the fall of 2012.
At the end of the 2012–2013 year there were many changes in the program. Bruce Phillips retired as Director. Sally Gunderman retired as Chair of the Board. Sally Evans and Ed Alexander also retired from the Board. All of these hard-working wonderful people deserve our great admiration and thanks for building this program and making it so successful and respected in the community. In the early years it was featured on Arizona Illustrated, a public television program. We have also come to the attention of the Diocese of Arizona. In February of 2011, the ASMP children were invited to join the St. Nicholas Choir for a special evensong service during the visit of the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She felt our program was of real value to the church. Thank you leaders and volunteers all.
2013–2014 marked the beginning of a new era. Tom Cross was elected the new Chair of the Board, Barby Goldschmid was hired as the new Director of ASMP, Woosug Kang was feeling more at home as he began his second year. We have 22 wonderful children and over 50 volunteers and a great love and belief in what we are doing. We are blessed to have Ed Alexander, retired math professor from the U of A, Roger Rainbolt, a retired elementary principal, Sally Evans, a former elementary school teacher who has been a pillar of the program since its inception, Joe Yukish, a former professor who specializes in children’s reading, Anne Oaches, a retired teacher from Rio Vista, one of the schools we serve … and on and on with wonderfully skilled and talented people who make this program work. One of our volunteers said to me “A couple of years ago I was greeting the children when they arrived. One precious little girl with glasses as big as her sweet face asked me why I was smiling. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was even smiling. I answered her quite honestly, that’s because I am so happy to see you. This sweet shy child then gave me a hug I will cherish forever.” We do make a difference in the lives of these children.
Our costs have remained manageable with help from the Outreach Commission for Bruce’s salary, some limited fund raising in the church, huge support and fundraising from the Friends of Music, and donations from volunteers. However, changes in the last year have necessitated hiring a new director, a new bus company, and possibly of paying a second instrument teacher. Our volunteers are most generous bringing healthy snacks, sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables. They also help with teaching supplies and other needs. Our fundraising within the church is somewhat limited, as the church must first support their own Stewardship Campaign. Things are changing and we are going to need to raise the money to cover our $20,000 budget. We are now a line item in the budget, which is a good start. We have been gifted some money from both the Outreach Commission and Labyrinth Committee. We have also formed a special committee to develop an exciting new fundraising plan.
The future looks as bright as the children’s faces. Please come visit us sometime in the Children’s Center or attend an Evening Prayer Service on the last Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the Church. You are also invited to our end-of-the-year celebration recital and choral performance.