Rotary, students and teachers with donated instruments

Rehoboth Beach Sunrise and Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Clubs Join Together to Support Sussex Academy Band Programs

Rotary District 7630 Grant Helps to Supply Much Needed Instruments

(Millsboro) (May 4, 2021) — It started as a conversation in late 2019 between some area Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club Rotarians as many of these Rotary philanthropic projects do and resulted in a $5,000 Rotary District 7630 Grant for $5,000 plus an additional $6,000+ donation from the Rehoboth Beach Sunrise and Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Clubs to procure much needed instruments for the music programs at Sussex Academy.

Dr. Uday Jani, who serves on the Sussex Academy Executive Board, had learned that the Academy did not have the resources to fund the instruments needed to meet growing demand in the Academy’s various music programs. High school enrollment had grown every year since the Academy started its high school program in 2012, and was projected to be 860 students in the 2020-21 school year – up from 770. The school was also introducing performing arts to grades six through eight. The Academy has a strong tradition of student participation in music, appearing at many County and State band festivals each year and offering various band programs to its Middle and High School students. Wanting to continue this rich tradition of music education and performance, Dr. Jani turned to his fellow Rotarian, Larry DeFrancisco, Vice President Marketing & Sponsorships, Rehoboth Jazz Festival, to see what he thought Rotary could do.

Larry felt a District Grant could cover a good portion of the cost, and as part of the package he would work with musicians from the Rehoboth Jazz Festival to offer performances to the students. Larry DeFrancisco and Dr. Jani brought their idea to the Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club where it was enthusiastically endorsed. And then COVID struck. Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club now needed another club to lead the Sussex Academy project to secure grant funding, as they had a grant project established for PPE for Beebe Medical Center. Enter Steve Grossman, a Board member of Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club at the time, and friend of Dr. Jani and Larry DeFrancisco. He saw the opportunity for Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club to offer another program to area youth, and a partnership was formed to underwrite the costs of the program. Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club would act as lead to secure a grant from Rotary District 7630.

“Being able to partner with fellow Rotary Clubs to achieve a goal is the beauty of our global organization,” remarked Randy Smith, President, Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club. “We are very fortunate to have Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club support and lead this project.”

Susan Giove of Rehoboth Beath Sunrise Rotary Club developed the 2020-21 District Grant request from Rotary District 7630 to help underwrite the required instrument cost. A $5,000 grant for “Musical Instruments for Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences Middle School and High School” was requested and received, with the two clubs to split the remainder of the $11,295.68 cost needed to procure the requested instruments in the fall of 2020. The grant would procure 24 instruments, and through the work of Larry De Francisco, arrangements had been made for the Rehoboth Jazz Festival Musicians to conduct sessions with the bands during the week of October 12, 2020.

Delays ensued as Clubs and the Academy worked to develop their COVID rhythms, but the project remained top of mind. Undaunted, Lucille Cavan, President of the Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club, worked with Sussex Academy Music Director, Michael Marotta to finalize the instrument purchase list in March of 2021: 14 x 12 snare drums, Vic Firth Double-Sided practice pads, four different sizes of bass drums, a 3-valve tuba, snare carriers, a tenor carrier, bass carriers, a French horn, a trumpet, a tenor saxophone, an innovative percussion field series Multi Tom Mallets, innovative percussion field series Marching Bass Mallets and a set of ukuleles for the Middle School program.

“Our Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club, together with the Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Rotary, is pleased to bring Larry DeFrancisco’s wonderful idea to reality,” remarked Lucille Cavan.  “Arts are such an important part of education and we are proud to support the students of the Sussex Academy bands and music programs.”

Most of the Instruments finally arrived and the two Rotary Clubs attended Sussex Academy on May 4th to present them. The black marching drums will be used by the school’s new Marching Percussion Ensemble, led by newly appointed percussion director, Mr. Scott Litzenberg. The brass and woodwind instruments will be used for both the middle and high school bands. A set of ukuleles (still on their way) will be used by Nancy Curry who teaches drama and music to the elementary students. Larry DeFrancisco has worked with Rehoboth Jazz Festival on presentations for the students this coming fall.

According to Sussex Academy’s Music Director Mike Marotta,”This grant and the generosity of these two Rotary clubs are allowing us to offer all middle and high school band students the opportunity to participate in concert band, percussion ensemble and eventually, a marching and pep band. The students and I will be forever grateful.”

Dr. Jani, who started it all with a simple conversation among Rotarians, is “tremendously excited that the two Clubs were able to supply the instruments to enable the school’s first marching band.”

And the bands play on!

Pictured above: Presentation of Instruments to Sussex Academy.SITTING left to right: Zach Burger; Oliver Graves; Nancy Curry, Elementary School Music Teacher; Randy Smith. President, Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club; Lucille Cavan, President, Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club; Gail Dejmal, President Elect Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club; Steve Grossman, Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club; Larry DeFrancisco, Vice President Marketing & Sponsorships, Rehoboth Jazz Festival and member, Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club. STANDING — in front of drums (L to R) Bella Crisci; Finna Graves; Mike Marotta, Music Director.  STANDING — back row (L to R) Tom Peet, Middle School Dean; Drew Brubacker; Christian Wright; Alex Fitzkee; Jovan Jean-Louis; Grace Thomas; Eric Anderson, Principal; Jack Thomas; Pat Campbell-White, Rehoboth Beach Sunrise Club.

CAPTION: Students practicing with donated instruments. Top Row: Left to right:  6th grader Drew Brubacker, marching percussion snare drum; 6th grader Jack Thomas, student trumpet;  8th grader Mitchell Lorah, tenor saxophone.