School opens new musical opportunities

GULF COVE — The jazz Mass was only the beginning for the Rev. Wes Runk, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, after building a relationship with the Charlotte County Jazz Society. Now he is expanding to introduce a school of music.

Four members of the jazz society’s big band group, Ingroov, perform the jazz Masses Sunday nights. Now, Runk says, those musicians are hoping to share their talents in another way.

“We’ve been in meetings for over two months,” Runk said. “It’s an off-growth of our jazz Mass. (The school) is a natural add-on.”

Runk enlisted John Johnson, who’s a board member of the jazz society and director of music at the church, to help run the program. Johnson, one of eight instructors for the program, teaches string bass and plays for the Ingroov Jazz Quartet, the Tamiami Brass Quintet, the Stein Swingers German Band, the North Port Concert Band and the Sun Coast Wind Ensemble.

“We went to (the) Myakka River Elementary (School) open house Monday night,” Johnson said. “We’re looking to get our ducks in a row. We’re putting together a starter class. We’ll have each instrument on display to show the students. At the beginning, we’re trying to get 15-20 beginner students to sign up for private lessons, then group them together for beginner lessons.”

Johnson said they’re looking to talk to L.A. Ainger Middle School about arranging a similar event.

Runk said three students have signed up, and the music school can accommodate up to 60 students per group.

Private instruction is $25 per lesson, which includes free group instruction.

“People can take as many lessons as they want,” Johnson said. “We’re starting with elementary, then going on to middle and later high school. We’re hopeful we’ll have bands at all levels, but it will take kids to take private lessons.”

Students will be grouped according to skill level.

“We’re excited about (the) quality of instruction,” Johnson said. “We have plans where they’ll be performing regularly. The music selected will be based on development.”

Johnson said it will take a while before the program catches on.

“Right now, North Port Music is renting out the instruments for our students,” Johnson said.

Runk said the church also is taking in unwanted music instruments to repurpose them for students.

“We’re holding the children’s lessons Saturdays for 30 minutes,” Runk said. “They can make arrangements with instructors for different times.”

For now, Runk said, adults will have access to only private instruction.

“We’re hoping for a mix of beginners and more experienced (musicians) to participate in our lessons,” he said. “The program is driven by our instructors. Most are college-trained educators.”

Hope Lutheran is not the only group helping to realize a child’s musical dreams. Friends for the Advancement of Musical Education donated $68,000 in musical instruments to area Englewood schools to date, according to the group’s website at  .

Johnson said he will talk with F.A.M.E. to explore the possibility of working with the group.

Hope Lutheran is located at 14200 Hopewell Ave., Gulf Cove.

For more information, call 941-697-2345.


About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News,, and Tampa Tribune.
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