If one were to find themselves strolling along North Glenoaks Boulevard between East Harvard Road and East Grinnell Drive, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to hear a chorus of voices singing “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “It Is Well With My Soul,” or another traditional selection from the United Methodist Hymnal.
What would not be so typical is to pass by the Burbank First United Methodist Church and hear “The Chicken,” a funky jazz instrumental composed by Pee Wee Ellis that was the B-side of James Brown’s 1969 single “The Popcorn.”
And yet, that is exactly what one would have heard this past Saturday morning as Burbank High School students Avetis Amirkhanyan tickled the ivories, Sean Cuevas blew his trombone, London Johnson hit the skins, and Zachary Garland kept the rhythm and root notes on his bass.
The jazz combo was just one of the musical performances that took to the stage and courtyard of the church’s Trever Hall for last week’s information and update event presented by the board of directors of the Burbank Arts and Education Foundation.
The event, specifically targeted to alumni from each school in the Burbank Unified School District and their guests, was staged to provide a better understanding and raise awareness of what the foundation has been doing since its establishment in 2020 following the merger of the Burbank Educational Foundation and the Burbank Arts for All Foundation, and their plans for the future.
As an added draw, the morning’s gathering were lured to the event by a breakfast of all-you-can-eat pancakes made by Connie Barron Trimble of Barron’s Family Restaurant.
Trimble, the daughter of Edith and Gordon Barron who ran the legendary Burbank eatery for more than a half a century before it closed in 2001, spent the morning flipping hundreds of pancakes made from their original family recipe. Making sure everyone was well-nourished for the post-breakfast program, Trimble was assisted in making the day as success by her 3-year-old granddaughter Annabelle Mills, former Burbank School Board member Roberta Reynolds, BAEF Chairwoman Brenda Etterbeek, and members of the BAEF board including Jennifer Lorigo, Charlene Walters, Michelle Duarte and Caroline Solberg.
Welcomed by Etterbeek and Lorigo, who serves as foundation’s vice chair, the gathering was updated on the $92,000 in grants BAEF distributed last year to fund school programs as diverse as engineering, robotics, providing and repairing musical instruments, scientific experiments, international cultural awareness, dance and music.
“Our goal for this year is to encourage every parent who has a child in the Burbank Unified School District to become engaged in our work, in understanding what our foundation does, and in making a financial commitment to ensure we can continue to provide funding for programs our schools would not otherwise have,” said Etterbeek.
“We want to do that by having more events such as this to introduce ourselves to the community and to put out the word of how proud we are of the work being done by the foundation within the school district,” Etterbeek added.
Among the special guests on hand at last week’s event were state Sen. Anthony Portantino, City Councilwoman Tamala Takahashi, School Board member Char Tabet, and Annie Cavanaugh, who serves as the instrumental music director of Burbank High School.
Along with providing an overview of what the foundation has done to support the arts and musical programs, Cavanaugh told the assemblage that the desire of students to study music is reaching an all-time high.
“Because of the pandemic, and having to take online classes from home, many students had not pursued musical education over the past two years,” said Cavanaugh. “That is now changing, and we are seeing an overwhelming number of students expressing a passion to study music. That means these programs are in demand and in great need of funding that the foundation provides.”
BAEF is the only organization dedicated solely to raising funds for all of Burbank’s public schools. BAEF’s mission is to engage and inspire the community to invest in meeting the diverse educational needs of every student in the district. The nonprofit works with business partners, parents and community members to fill the gaps between education funding and those academic needs of students.
The foundation is currently looking for benefactors, community advocates and volunteers who will help them provide innovation and excellence in arts education, STEM programs, student safety and wellness, and other needs within the district.
The foundation’s leadership has established numerous financial, in-kind, and volunteer opportunities in which individuals and business can be of help. To learn more about what the foundation does and how you can get involved, visit burbankartsanded.org.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.
First published in the September 9 print issue of the Burbank Leader.