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From the President – Garth Taylor

Garth TaylorHello everyone! We are almost at the end of a year we will never forget. It was, shall we say, remarkable. There will be many songs written about it.

Even with Covid and a poor economy, the School of American Music made important strides this year toward becoming the premier music school and performance center in Harbor Country and Michiana. Our services have never been in more demand as music is truly what ties us all together.

This year, we taught more than 100 students, young and old alike. We hosted a dozen concerts through our school and Harbor Country Singers. We established the Future Fund endowment campaign, with a goal of raising $500K in 10 years. And finally, we held our first benefit concert in September, and it raised nearly $17K for the Fund. Strong accomplishments for what people call a crazy year.

We continue to look forward and take comfort in knowing that the School of American Music will maintain and grow its important place in the community.

Won’t you join us? We offer terrific, free concerts, and we’re planning two benefit events for 2021. Please click the “Donate” button below by year end to help us solidify plans for 2021 and beyond.

As always, this newsletter is our way to keep you up on behind-the-scenes news about our students, teachers, donors and programs and to extend invitations to special events and other enjoyments. If you do not wish to receive it, please contact us through our website.

Donate to the Future Fund


When Covid showed up, we switched to online sessions and we’re finding them to be about 85 percent as effective as in-person lessons. This is better than expected, and a godsend for students, teachers and parents. Under State of Michigan guidelines, we now also offer one-on-one lessons at the Three Oaks Arts & Education Center, and socially-distanced live performances on the Spring Creek Stage behind the Center and in area churches with whom we have partnered for several years.


Tim HindesAfter 55 years of listening to Johnny Cash on the jukebox, I was curious to see if this old dog could learn a new trick. My wife saw an ad for the School of American Music in the Beacher and I decided to take lessons on the baritone ukulele.

The great news is now I can play, and I love it! I’m on a 30-year plan to play like Duane Allman and cover Pete Seeger with ease. As of today, there are 28 years to go and already I’m leading songs around the socially-distanced campfire.

At first, I didn’t know how to read music or even how to hold the uke. I was also pretty nervous because I’m used to getting things right the first time. But learning music is like building a house—one brick at a time. Some of what was very difficult is now natural; I can proudly say that when I hold down 4 fingers, I know the names of the notes and the strings without looking. And now I love being able to read music. I get my own books, play tunes and find ways to accent and personalize the music.

I’m even personalizing my weekly sessions. Sometimes I can’t attend, and sometimes I don’t do everything I’m supposed to. But I do suggest tunes “not in the curriculum,” and we work on those.

I am very grateful to the founders, staff, sponsors and underwriters of The School for American Music. Thank you for bringing this resource to my backyard.

THANK YOU: September 26 Attendees

By Deborah Hall-Kayler, Tom Flint, Lolly Roberts and Hillary LaGattuta

On Saturday, September 26, SAM presented a socially-distanced concert for 100 guests on the Spring Creek Stage at the Three Oaks Arts & Education Center. It was a magical evening. We sold out, and the weather for late September was glorious!

The concert, a benefit for SAM’s Future Fund for the endowment, raised nearly $17K for the school. Soprano Martha Cares headlined the show, which also featured local performers and friends of SAM.

If you missed the concert, don’t worry; look for an invitation to our next benefit concert scheduled for early next summer!

THANK YOU: Pokagon Fund

Enrollment at the School of American Music is up, thanks to a generous grant from the Pokagon Fund. Pokagon Executive Director Dan Peterson, who Pokagn Fundhonored us as keynote speaker at our first benefit concert in September, noting that the award would support up to 100 percent of need-based scholarships at the school.


Bill McCollumWhen I think of the School of American Music, I am reminded of Minneapolis, where I took percussion in high school band and grew up surrounded by fabulous music. In fact, my father invented a tuning fork! Music is what we talked about, it’s what we followed, it’s what we did every day at the outdoor music stage on Lake Calhoun. We never had any money, but it didn’t matter; the music was free. The music in the park in Three Oaks and at the School of American Music is like that—fabulous, fun, free.

I didn’t stick with percussion; I went on to become an architect. But my work is not dissimilar to SAM’s. I make dreams happen, and so does the School of American Music.

When I think of SAM, I think of “opportunity.” The school provides students the opportunity to learn an art that otherwise would not be available to them. In addition, SAM provides opportunities for people like me to hear recitals and concerts, which make Harbor Country a fun place to be—a place where I want to live.

I donate to SAM because of this. My father taught me people should give back to their communities in any way they can: financially or as a volunteer, or both. Helping important organizations such as the School of American Music is exactly what he meant. I have given back all my life. I enjoy it.
I’d like to see more people support music and the arts in Michiana. The investment adds so much value to our lives. Organizations such as SAM say to the community, “We can do this, we can have our own arts institution.” Our support ensures that SAM is not only our arts institution, but also a lasting institution. There are so few!


Tom FlintI joined the board of the Music School about six months ago because it is an anchor in the local arts scene, and because it provides a safe space for creative kids and adults to let their imaginations soar.

A believer in contributing to my community, I have been a long-time member and past president of the Harbor Country Rotary Club, and I am involved with Blessings in a Backpack and Meals.

My goal as a member of the SAM board is to help grow its influence throughout Harbor Country.

State of the “Future Fund”

Bill Korbel, SAM Board Treasurer

Bill Korbel Bill Korbel, SAM Board Treasurer[/caption]
This year SAM launched the “Future Fund” campaign, our 10-year effort to establish a $500,000 endowment. This investment will provide income security against future risks.

As of this writing, the Future Fund is ahead of schedule with approximately $70,000 invested in mutual funds from a well-known investment firm and monitored by outside experts from the financial services industry. An upcoming challenge grant will match donations up to $30,000. Please help us secure the future of the School of American Music. Like every note in a musical score, every dollar plays an important part in reaching our fundraising goal.

To contribute to the fund, donors are invited to click the button below. Gifts are tax-deductible and matched 100 percent by an anonymous donor.

Donate to the Future Fund

MUSICAL MYSTERY: Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle?

Researching American music takes us to wondrous, and often amusing places. To wit: Vaudeville 1914.

Rip van Winkle Sheet Music CoverIn the early part of the 20th century, Vaudeville was big, and in 1914, the hit song was “Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle?” The lyrics are tongue-in-cheek bawdy, the kind of thing associated with “big city life.” At the time more than half of America lived in rural areas, compared to 20 percent today …

“Who paid the rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle when Rip Van Winkle went away?
And while he slept for twenty years, who was it kissed away her tears?
She had no friends in the place, had no one to embrace, but the
Landlord always saw her with a smile on her face.”

The sheet music tells us much about the entertainment industry then. Regular radio broadcasts did not begin until the 1920s; there were no movies with sound until 1927. Phonograph discs had just been invented, but hardly anyone owned a phonograph player. Nonetheless, composers and lyricists were making a good income.

Al Jolson

How? By selling sheet music that people could play at home on their pianos, guitars, and other “parlor” instruments. Publishers generated interest in their music by enlisting famous singers such as Al Jolson to sing them. And, if a tune were also included in a popular Broadway production, such as Honeymoon Express or the Ziegfeld Follies, it sold all the better.

For lyrics and music for Al Jolson’s 1914 smash hit “Who Pain the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle?” FOLLOW THIS LINK and you will see the sheet music (typically) had advertisements for other songs at the bottom of each page, and the last page of the sheet music displays excerpts from other songs the publisher hoped people would buy.


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