Bend High music program awarded $5,500

Grammy Foundation grant will help school replace 100-year-old piano

By Megan Kehoe / The Bulletin

There aren’t many who can say they’ve been recognized by the Grammy Foundation.

But a group of Bend High School students can now say just that after their music program became one of only a dozen across the country to be given a Grammy Signature Schools Award this month.

“It makes me so proud of our choir and of our choir teacher,” said Hannah Biles, 18, a Bend High senior. “At state, we pulled something off by placing third. But now it’s more than that — we’ve been recognized nationally.”

The award and its accompanying grant of $5,500 not only recognizes the school’s music program as one of the most impressive in the country, but also puts the school closer to replacing its century-old piano.

Bend High’s music program was chosen from 20,000 public high schools across the country to receive the award. The grants are given to public high schools that display a commitment to high quality music education, and schools are selected based on financial need along with student music recordings. Bend High was the only school selected in Oregon for the award.

Luke MacSween, the school’s choir teacher, completed the application, sending a recording of the school’s choir performing at the state competition last year, where it placed third.

“We’re all so passionate about choir — I mean, we all just love it so much,” said Olivia Cushing, 18, a senior. “I think that came through at state.”

MacSween said he believes Bend High was selected for the award because of the quality of its music program, which pulls in about one-sixth of the school’s students.

“I wish finances were better for the program,” MacSween said. “But the bottom line really is that we do more with less here. We’ve always been able to do that really well at Bend High.”

MacSween said the $5,500 will go entirely toward a purchasing a new grand piano to replace the music department’s current one, which is nearly 100 years old.

“It’s a really cool piece of history, but it’s a mess,” MacSween said. “It won’t make it through another holiday season.”

MacSween said over the years, the 7-foot grand piano has been pushed off the stage, damaged with water and has had to be repaired multiple times. He said the department has resorted to stuffing cardboard under the foot pedals because they’re so wobbly. Replacing the piano with one of equivalent quality will cost the school $25,000 to $30,000. The Grammy grant, along with money from earlier fundraising, puts the school at the halfway mark toward purchasing a new piano. The music program hopes to purchase the instrument this fall.

“It’s cool to be able to give back to the program,” Annie Beaver, 18, a senior, said. “It’s nice knowing that future students will benefit because of this.”

The award will be presented to the school later this month by the foundation at an assembly. Though MacSween doesn’t know whether some version of the trademark Grammy trophy will be presented to Bend High at the award ceremony, he does know the award has given a boost to the program.

“It shows the students that the community has bought into and cares about what they’re doing,” MacSween said. “A lot more interest will be generated because of this. It’s this whole weather system of awesome.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0354,

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