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Beloved St. Paul teacher's growing music program in need of support

A St. Paul Public Schools teacher started the music program at Open World Learning Community from scratch. He's now hoping for help to support his growing program.

ST PAUL, Minnesota — What's happening inside the choir room at Open World Learning Community in St. Paul is something worth singing about. 

"It's been really quite incredible," said Alex Ferderer, OWL choir director 

When St. Paul Public Schools teacher Alex Ferderer started OWL's music program five years ago, he had 30-40 choir students. Now, nearly 250 of the school's 450 students are involved in the music program. 

"It's like my baby almost because it came from nothing, it came from everything that I've wanted," Ferderer said. 

He teaches many classes, including jazz choir, varsity choir, concert choir, middle school choir, a music production class and is helping put on a musical this year. 

But with the program growing, Ferderer has partnered with the Minneapolis-based nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org to raise $10,000 for OWL's music program. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
The music program has grown from 30-40 choir students to nearly 250 of the school's 450 students.

"We need risers, we need shells, folders, places to put folders and cabinets," Ferderer explained. 

Donations will also go towards piano tuning, sheet music, new books for ukulele class, microphones, sound equipment and other classroom needs. 

Donor Tom Arenson is also matching the first $1,000 raised. Teachers have immediate access to the funds they're raising. 

It's money that'll help a growing program. The choral program has toured nationally and in 2019, 30 students at OWL were selected for city and state honors choirs. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Alex Ferderer, OWL choir director.

Many of the students have gone on to pursue careers in music. 

Senior Jaydon Gilkes was part of the first group of students introduced to OWL's music program when he was an eighth grader. 

At first, Gilkes, a tenor 2, was hesitant to join the choir but now he's interested in studying music theory in college. 

"Ever since I've been in music I've started to love it now and I never really thought I was going to do it and he's opened so many doors for me," said Gilkes, also a member of VocalEssence Singers of This Age. The group includes 50 young people from Twin Cities high schools. 

"It just lets me express myself more than what I normally would do with regular school," Gilkes said. 

Sophomore Karina Bary, a soprano 2, added, "You're just having a great time with your friends making beautiful music." 

If you'd like to help, you can donate here

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