Musicians give back to their roots

With the help of a donation from RMES, Murray purchases grand drape for new stage

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Musicians give  back to their roots“Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else, rhythm and harmony find their way to the innermost soul and take strongest hold upon it.” — Plato


The value of teaching music to children is one of the most difficult aspects of education to quantify. But a handful who appreciate that value first hand continue to use their gifts, honed in part through local schools, to ensure that music education continues to the younger generations.

In 2009, when budget cuts hit California and hollowed out funding for performing arts programs across the state, a group of young adults decided to find a way to contribute to continuing those programs in local schools.

“Many of our founding members grew up in Ridgecrest and were active in the arts programs in middle and high school,” said Marla Cosner, one of the founders.

The foundersof the Ridgecrest Music Enrichment Society envisioned a nonprofit group that could translate that love of music into a fund-raising arm for programs in the Sierra Sands Unified School District. In the last 10 years, they’ve given almost $150,000 back to local schools.

The latest recipient of a grant from RMES is Murray Middle School, which recently moved into a brand-new campus adjacent to Burroughs High School. Although the district received upwards of $40 million in defense grants and matching funds to build the new campus, district leaders didn’t have a way to pay for some of the embellishments — like a grand drape for their new stage.

The Sierra Sands Unified School District and the Murray Parent-Teacher Organization were able to raise about $11,500 toward the cost, and RMES came in with another $10,000 to deliver the luxurious drape to the stage.

“I will just say that we were humbled and overwhelmed by this generous gift,” said Principal Kirsti Smith.”

She said that the school receives about $4,000 from the program each year, “which is a lot of money for our budget. That helps us send our students to the various competitions and festivals, and whatever needs come up for our music programs.”

Last year, the school made do with PVC frames and sheets, which one of the teachers built for the stage. “Honestly, we didn’t have another way of funding curtains, so we made do with what we had. This year, we got to use real curtains that open and close for our variety show, and it was just awesome!”

Fund-raising is one of the three pillars of the RMES mission. Since 2009 the society has produced at least one high-caliber performance per year for the community, featuring beloved shows such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.”

A few years ago, Cosner wanted to extend that platform into giving young children more opportunities to perform. She launched the “RMES Rising Stars” program with the production of “Aristocats” andhas continued to present vibrant stories to sold-out crowds each year.

Auditions for this year’s production of “Alice in Wonderland Jr.” will begin this afternoon. (See related story, this page).

“We encourage kids from all over the community — public, private, charter and homeschooled — to try out and experience a family- friendly, positive environment.”

The production will also feature a new venue — the recently renovated Cerro Coso Community College Lecture Center, historically the home to a popular children’s theater program that countless hundreds participated in each summer.

“Our goal is to offer variety shows and musicals that we hope the whole family can enjoy,” said Cosner. To find out more ways to get involved, see

Pictured: Murray Middle School Principal Kirsti Smith (second from left) and children from the school’s choral, band and orchestra programs accept a check from Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society founding member Marla Cosner (right), a former student and now a teacher in the Sierra Sands Unified School District. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-01-04