KEYS to music education from Music in the Mountains |

KEYS to music education from Music in the Mountains

Julie Becker
Special to the Union
Quilter Cathy Stone and her husband Rich stand beside the multi-colored quilt she donated to Music in the Mountains. The quilt will be raffled off to the public to help fund Music in the Mountains Keranen Education Youth Scholarships, known as KEYS.
Submitted photo to The Union |

Although not easily measured on standardized tests, music education can do wonders for kids. Studies show it can stimulate imagination, broaden the mind, touch emotions and lead to a deeper understanding of other cultures. When you put instruments into the hands of students or invite them to join a choir, you’re definitely opening doors.

While this sounds like magic, the magic can quickly disappear when a family is struggling with a tight budget. Lessons, instrument rentals and many outside musical programs carry a price; they’re not free.

A young person may be drawn to a shiny brass trumpet or the polished maple of a violin; may yearn to pick up an instrument and play it — but the reality is: Lack of money can be a game stopper.


Knowing this to be true, Music in the Mountains, with its strong education mission, aims to keep the game going. They do this by granting Keranen Education Youth Scholarships, known as KEYS, to as many students as possible. These scholarships offer financial assistance to young musicians who need a lift. Past awards have helped to pay for violin, trombone and piano lessons, paid partial tuition for Music in the Mountains’ Young Composers Project, and have paved the way for students to attend summer music camps.

The namesake for the scholarship program is the late Laura Keranen who passed away in December of 2009. Keranen was a volunteer extraordinaire for Music in the Mountains, earning the organization’s prestigious Maestro Award in 2003 for her exemplary service.

She served on the board of directors for 10 years, hosted musicians in her home and prepared food for orchestra members during Music in the Mountains SummerFest, and was a tireless advocate for music education, leading her to chair Music in the Mountains Education Committee for several years.

One of Keranen’s pet projects was the Donner Mine Music Camp, where young musicians spend a week attending intensive rehearsals for the Concert Band, as well as classes and lessons. Keranen visited the camp in 2002.

Soon after, she was quoted in a Union article, headlined Simply Symphonic Summer, as saying, “We were extremely impressed with the quality of the instrumentation, the spirit of the camp, and the impact of the closing concert with 110 musicians playing together. The selections were challenging and done with such skill and joy. The campers have such a good time doing it. That says a lot.”

Now, bringing her enthusiasm into the present, Music in the Mountains Education Task Force has embarked on an ambitious fundraising effort to boost the scholarship program.

Thanks to a generous donation from quilter Cathy Stone, we have a gorgeous multi-colored quilt to raffle off to the public. The quilt has intricately stitched panels in shades of plums and purples, oranges and ochres, greens and blues — all following the gingko pattern. It’s most appreciated seen up close.

Cathy Stone, who recently moved up to Washington with her husband Rich, was a long-time member of the Pine Tree Quilt Guild, and also involved with Mountain Art Quilters. As an expert machine quilter and art quilter, she not only created quilts with elaborate designs, but she also served as a teacher, willingly sharing her craft.

Over the next few months, her quilt — the KEYS quilt — will be displayed at all Music in the Mountains musical events, large and small. Raffle tickets will be sold and the winning ticket will be drawn mid-year.

Mark Vance, Music in the Mountains Education Coordinator, hopes to spread the word and encourage more students to apply for a scholarship award.

The process is simple. After giving him a call, all they have to do is write a letter telling who they are, what they’d like to do and why they need help. He wants kids to have musical experiences and to know what it takes to be good at something.

In short, he said, “That’s our job as a concert organization.”

Besides the Keranen Education Youth Scholarships, Music in the Mountains offers three other worthy awards: The Lucy Becker Memorial Vocal Scholarship, granted to a talented young singer each spring; the Paul Perry Award for best performance at the Young Musicians Showcase; and the Making a Difference Scholarship, awarded in collaboration with the Penn Valley Rotary Club to a local high school student who shows strong dedication to both service and music education.

For more information on any of these scholarships, contact Mark Vance by calling 530-265-6173 or email him at

Julie Becker lives in Nevada City and is a member of Music in the Mountains Education Task Force.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.