Church to hold open house for new music school

GULF COVE — Wes Runk and John Johnson started the Hope Academy of Music for those who want to tap into musical potential, whether it’s their child’s or their own.

The academy will be hosting an open house Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Hope Lutheran Church, 14200 Hopewell Ave., Gulf Cove.

Because Runk, church pastor, has a relationship with the Charlotte County Jazz Society, he was able to recruit a quartet from the big band group Ingroov to perform for jazz services at the church.

Johnson, who plays bass during the services and has been a band director for over 42 years, is the director of the academy.

“We’re recruiting students for private lessons, and all of our staff will be on hand at the open house,” Johnson said. “I’ve been to 12 schools in Charlotte and Sarasota counties talking to band directors and shared information about the program. All I’ve talked to are positive about this.”

The schools he visited included Charlotte High School, Port Charlotte High School, Lemon Bay High School, North Port High School, Heron Creek Middle School, Murdock Middle School, Port Charlotte Middle School, Punta Gorda Middle School, L.A. Ainger Middle School, Woodland Middle School, Vineland Elementary School and Myakka River Elementary School.

“All the lessons will be held at the church, where we have six studios set up,” Johnson said. “We’re set up for Saturdays. If instructors are full on their Saturday morning schedules, we’ll offer after-school lessons.”

Instruments were donated by Friends for the Advancement of Musical Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing repurposed music instruments for children from low-income families at schools.

“We gave 12 instruments to help start their program,” said Jim Pivovar, president of F.A.M.E. “I think it’s great that there is an avenue to help kids and parents enhance the need of music in the area.”

Overall, the instruments donated are six flutes, keyboard, two guitars, five trumpets, two trombones and four clarinets.

Pivovar said the academy is the first program of its kind in the area he’s ever seen.

“I have a couple of friends of mine and I’ve talked to them about the program and they’ve showed interest,” he said. “I think what they’re doing is fantastic and I like to give kudos to them.”

Runk said more needs to be done.

“We’re looking to get some signage done,” he said. “It’s past the dream stage and we’re ready to get started. The church has enough space with the eight classrooms to use for the academy.”

Runk said the academy paid for all repairs on donated damaged instruments to repurpose them for student use.

The academy charges $25 per 30-minute lesson and is open to all ages. Applications for scholarships will be available for children to sign up. The scholarships will cover a portion of the cost, and instruments may be used free of charge if the student is participating in band. Students can then set up a Saturday morning appointment, according to Johnson.

Runk said the goal is for the academy to get 40 students. Johnson will be one of eight instructors.

“We have to form a student body from those taking private lessons, which is a prerequisite,” Johnson said. “Once we have an established student enrollment, we can get creative and form bands and ensembles. I can see this become a real opportunity to participate outside their schools, where they can give public performances and travel to places like Orlando.”

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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