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Lowville Academy music program bolstered by memorial gift

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LOWVILLE — A $75,000 memorial gift has proven instrumental in bolstering Lowville Academy and Central School District’s music program.

“We are one lucky music department,” music teacher Penny S. Jay said.

The monetary gift was given by the estate of John L. Kirschner, a member of the Lowville Academy class of 1945 and longtime attorney in Buffalo, who died in 2008, and his wife, Mary Alyce, who died in 2011.

“It was very unexpected,” district Superintendent Cheryl R. Steckly said. “You don’t plan on a gift of that size.”

The initial $62,500 payment from the Kirschner estate was used to buy a number of instruments and enhance the music program, while the Board of Education has yet to decide how to use a second installment of $12,500, making the total gift worth $75,000, Mrs. Steckly said.

“These would be things that would directly benefit students in our school district,” she said.

Although Mr. Kirschner did not appear to have had extensive contact with his alma mater over the years, both he and his wife made it a point to set aside memorial gifts for the school districts and colleges from which they graduated, Mrs. Steckly said.

“They were very generous,” she said.

While there were no stipulations from the Kirschner estate as to how to spend the money, district officials “tried to look at some things he was involved with,” as well as areas of need in the district, to make that determination, Mrs. Steckly said.

Mr. Kirschner had been involved in band during his time at Lowville school, and fiscal constraints had left the district’s instrumental stock in less than pristine condition, she said.

“In difficult budget times, you’re not typically replacing baritone saxophones or pianos,” the superintendent said.

The music department decided to use much of the funding for more advanced — and expensive — instruments students typically would not purchase themselves, Mrs. Jay said.

“We had instruments that were here for a long time,” she said, adding that instructors have been “band-aiding” them together.

Items purchased with the money included a Yamaha baby grand piano, three Knabe studio pianos, music stands, ukuleles, baritone and tenor saxophones, a baritone horn, a vibraphone, a bassoon, an oboe and two timpanis.

“Kids in years to come will be able to use the instruments and pianos and enjoy a lifetime of playing music at Lowville Academy,” Mrs. Jay said.

Some of the funding also is being used to start a scholarship that will be awarded to a senior who has excelled at music during each graduation ceremony, starting this year, she said.

The music department is planning to commemorate the donation with a slide presentation during a concert of the jazz ensemble and select chorus and band at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the school auditorium.

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