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On a Light Note

Carnival will benefit music program at Ojai's Nordhoff High.


Usually the familiar song lyrics, "The hills are alive with the sound of music," evoke an alpine fantasy, complete with Julie Andrews and unseen choristers. But for families who attend the Musical Carnival at Nordhoff High School in Ojai this Sunday, a new, closer-to-home image of hills filled with the sound of music may supplant the old one.

About 100 Nordhoff High School kids will participate in three performing groups--the Gold and Blue Singers, the Concert Band and the Marching Band.

In addition to performances on the school's football field from noon to 4 p.m., the event will include carnival attractions, snack booths, ball tosses and a dunk tank. Admission is free. Tickets for the games and booths will be sold at the entrance.

Sunday's carnival and "March-a Thon" is being held as a fund- raiser for the Nordhoff music department. The student musicians want to take their show on the road, and the money they raise will be used to send 55 of them on a concert tour of the San Francisco Bay Area in May. It will be the school's first such trip.

"The Nordhoff music program is in the midst of a renaissance," director Bill Wagner said. Just a few years ago, music seemed to have little cachet among students.

But because of strong local support for music instruction in Ojai's elementary and middle schools, incoming high school kids increasingly choose Nordhoff's music performing groups as "a fun place to be," Wagner said. "The level of respect displayed by the student body toward the band members has notably increased."

So, aside from the sheer fun of attending a carnival and hearing an outdoor concert, young visitors may find some positive role models at Sunday's event.

A parent-organizer of the carnival, Joe Crites, whose own kids will participate, says, "The value I seek in [music] for my children is that it is one of the few activities we do in our lives where process, or the act of performing, is everything."

Parents in the Ojai schools and elsewhere in the county have figured out that getting their kids into school music programs--and supporting those programs beginning in elementary school--is a good way to promote all-round academic performance, according to Pam Martens, assistant superintendent of schools for the Ojai Unified School District.

Recent academic studies reported in the press support this idea. "Music is the connective tissue, linked to increased achievement in math, language arts, critical thinking and even work skills," Martens says.

Yes, music education has its down-to-earth aspects. Just ask the Nordhoff High Jazz Band students who, last week put on a two-hour concert to promote this weekend's event. (They were also promoting Chevrolet sales, since the concert took place at Paradise Chevrolet in Ventura.) Their efforts garnered a $500 donation from the dealership for the Nordhoff music program.


The Musical Carnival and March-a-Thon takes place Sun., noon-4 p.m., on the Nordhoff High School football field, 1401 Maricopa Highway, Ojai. Admission, free. (805) 640-4430.

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