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Teen hits a sweet note with new music library

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Early in the 20th century, before regular radio broadcasts, many people learned to play instruments so they could enjoy music at home. Not surprisingly, during this era sheet music was plentiful and popular tunes would sell in the millions of copies.

Now with big online retailers dominating sales of almost everything, few music stores sell sheet music, particularly if one is looking for obscure or long-forgotten songs. However, one student at the Claremont Community School of Music wants to help locals find the sheet music they seek.

Piano student, Miya Matsumune, 17, created a music book lending library at the school with literally scores of titles including chamber music, song anthologies, unique arrangements and some on music theory.

Until recently, the books and ephemera were stored in an office space where Claremont Community School of Music Board President Lee Waggoner works. The material had been donated to the school over the years and Waggoner figured there must be a better use for the music than just collecting dust.

“I got to thinking about it because most of the donated music goes to the main office and I have a little desk and pretty soon I could not get to my desk because of the amount of donated music,” Waggoner said. “So I just started sorting it and more came and we were running out of space.”

So a plan was hatched between the school’s Executive Director Matthew Keating, Waggoner and Miya, who was nearing the end of her involvement in Girl Scouts and needed a Gold Award project.

“I kept saying to Matt ‘We should figure out something to do with this music,” and then Miya had a need for a project and we said we have a project,” Waggoner said.

Miya spent more than 80 hours building the display cases, labeling and categorizing all of the music and then arranging the books in her library. The library is located in one of the school’s classroom wings and all books are available for anyone in the community, not just the school’s students.

“I am lucky enough my teacher, Ms. Maria Perez, found really nice pieces for me when I was a child so I grew up with a variety of classical music. However, I think if I had this opportunity when I was younger I would have loved to pick out my own pieces, and I am definitely going to use it now,” Miya said.

Building the display cases was the most time-consuming part of the project and Waggoner’s husband Bill helped by creating blueprints of an existing bookcase and showing Miya how to use a table saw. She then assembled the cases with the assistance of her father.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students to browse and find new things that they love because you can get music books online and you can find sheet music to print out for free. But it’s hard to know what you are looking for. Often [internet searches] will suggest the most famous composers and perhaps won’t show you a variety of composers,” Miya said.

Miya’s family all play instruments, as music is something that really brings the family together. She said a typical evening revolves around a family jam session during which they will create their own arrangement of a pop tune or just play improvisational melodies. Her mother plays the flute, dad plays drums and bass, her brother also plays drums and bass, and Miya plays the piano.

Similar to earning the Eagle rank in Boy Scouting, the Gold Award is the highest accomplishment in Girl Scouting and just 5.6% of scouts earn the award. Once a girl enters high school and reaches the senior or ambassador rank she can apply for the Gold Award and select a project.

“Obviously there is a layer to this project that has to do with access to music education because some of these music books are not cheap and being able to access them for free is really important. There are students at Claremont Community School of Music that are on scholarship which I think is really wonderful,” Miya said. “The Claremont Community School of Music has always tried to push for inclusivity and access to music education despite socioeconomic status, so I am really happy to contribute to that legacy by helping people access music books and sheet music with no cost.”

Keating said at one time there was a sheet music store at the mall in Montclair, but it is long gone. The only local commercial store in the area is Old Town Music in Pasadena. He said even the public library doesn’t have sheet music so the one at the school will be unique for the area.

“There are a few places like Styles Music where you can go and get a couple of books but it’s not classical. This is going to be the only dedicated sheet music library that I am aware of where you can come and browse and take it and there won’t be a cost,” Keating said.

The library will be open during the school’s regular business hours, Monday through Friday 1 to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will run on the honor system, so you don’t have to check a book out like at the public library. The school hopes that when one is done using the book they will simply bring it back. And maybe get another.

“I think that it really helps cultivate passion for music when you are allowed to chose your own pieces and find ones that you really like,” Miya said.

 

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