Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

July 15, 2013

Sweet sounds with big band grant

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Musical sounds are likely a little sweeter these days for Pauls Valley’s school band program thanks to a six-figure grant already making a big impact.

Band director Drew Etheredge was hoping to make a little dent in his effort to upgrade the program’s fleet of instruments when he submitted a grant application to the Jerome Westheimer Family Foundation this past spring.

Instead, Etheredge and the program as a whole hit it big when a three-year grant totaling $123,456 was awarded by the foundation.

What it all means is the local band program is already getting a major infusion of brand new instruments that will soon replace many dating back a lot of years.

Etheredge is not shy about expressing his gratitude to a foundation that works to help programs like this one.

“I’m blown away by the generosity of the foundation,” Etheredge said. “I want to thank the foundation.

“This is a great thing for the program and very beneficial for our students,” he said.

“It opens up a lot of opportunities for our students. It really is going to benefit our students in a great way. This grant is going to touch the lives of many students.

“I know the foundation is a big supporter of the arts. I’m very thankful to have their support.”

The Jerome Westheimer Family Foundation was founded by Jerome Max Westheimer Sr. in 1986.

Since its inception, the foundation has given over $5 million to different charitable organizations, education, art and cultural activities.

Westheimer attended school in Ardmore and graduated from Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. He later attended the University of Oklahoma for a semester and graduated with honors in geology from Stanford University in 1933.

Westheimer was the first president of the Samuel Noble Foundation and served as Lloyd Nobles’ chief geologist.

After Nobles’ death in 1950, he became an independent geologist and founded the Valbel West Oil Corporation.

With his wife Ellen, they became avid art collectors encompassing one of the best art collections in the southwest.

Westheimer served on the board of directors for the Charles B. Goddard Center, the Southern Memorial Foundation, the Oklahoma Art Center and president of the Oklahoma Arts Institute.

He was awarded the Governors Art Award in 1982. He passed away in 2004 at the age of 94.

The awarding of the Pauls Valley grant means $41,152 in annual payments will come to the school’s band program each of three consecutive years with the first one already put to use.

According to Etheredge, money from the grant will help the program totally update the larger, more specialized instruments normally supplied by the school.

Some examples are percussion instruments, tubas and bass clarinets.

Many of the current instruments are so old they date back more than three decades.

“These funds are specifically for new instruments. It goes to purchasing instruments that we need in our program,” Etheredge said.

“This is to replace to instruments, especially the larger instruments. The smaller instruments are a lot more affordable, so the kids normally get those themselves.”

“This covers the needs in our program.”