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May 14, 2010 > Wanted: one Steinway grand piano

Wanted: one Steinway grand piano

By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong

James Logan High School's (JLHS) Director of Bands Ramiro Barrera envisages a grand piano for the school's new Center for the Performing Arts. It is a fitting complement to the new facility's acoustics, size and capacity to seat 600 people.

Tri-CED Recycling founder and CEO Richard Valle and his wife, Executive Director of New Haven Schools Foundation Barbara Aro-Valle, readily agreed to collaborate with Barrera to raise $100,000 for a Steinway grand piano when he broached the matter in November 2009.

Barrera has created a one-time event, for May 22, called the "Show of Shows" inspired by the poem "The People Yes" by Carl Sandburg. The bill, which is being kept secret, includes alumni, who excelled in the Band Program, and went on to become professional musicians, singers and dance artistes. The event is also a tribute to the performing arts in New Haven Unified School District. Tickets are $50 each.

Valle agreed to help promote the event and approached Emerald Packaging CEO Kevin Kelly who is a keen supporter of the arts and agreed to become involved. They met with New Haven Unified School District Superintendent Kari McVeigh who liked the idea. The business community formed a four-member committee consisting of Blommer Chocolate, Emerald Packaging, Tri-CED and Crowne Plaza Hotel. So far, $40,000 has been raised. The monies will be funneled through Tri-CED, as a non-profit, and a check presented on May 22 towards the purchase of a grand piano.

The committee members wish to gift the funds to the Band Program which can decide how to manage them. Sherman and Clay Pianos has advised what options are available for use and ownership of a piano, including a Steinway.

There will be an hour-long reception at 6.30 p.m. before the "Show of Shows" begins. Local restaurants and food retailers will showcase their dishes and produce. Union City Leos from the Lions Club will serve. Splurge Catering's Ric Serriani, a JLHS graduate, will organize the bulk of the catering.

Tommy Lindsey's Forensics Program will entertain. School Board member Kevin Harper is an accomplished violinist and will perform with members of the Band Program. Union City Police Explorers will escort guests into the auditorium in readiness for the stage performances. There will be silent auctions, raffles and other opportunities to help acquire the grand piano.

Tri-CED has generously donated $10,000 for the choreography and the production of the "Show of Shows" and a further $10,000 towards the piano. Fremont Bank and Emerald Packaging are donating a further $20,000 between them. Not all companies are in such a fortunate position but have been able to give. The Center for the Performing Arts is tangible. Many business owners do not live in Union City but readily support the gala knowing the funds will be used to purchase a musical instrument that will last for almost a century and can see the venue where it will be housed.

"We believe co-curricular activities, performing arts, forensics, sports... are important facets of a child's personal development, help retain their interest in school and improve academic performance in the long-run," stated Valle.

"Our son was a snare drummer in the Bands Program and played the same instrument with the UCLA Marching Band. Now he plans to attend medical school. The arts are another anchor for a child's education. Parents often have to invest much time to ensure their children have access to the benefits of such programs. Barbara was president of the Band Boosters," he added.

"Our son's academic performance improved on joining the high school music program. It helped him focus - reading music, timing, teamwork, leadership skills developed as did his self-esteem and confidence. We almost lost the music program this year when the School Board wanted to save $400,000. About 500 parents spoke against the cut and saved the program for 2,000 students for another year," said Aro-Valle.

Richard Valle and Barbara Aro both attended JLHS where they met in their teens and have been together since. They are loyal to their alma mater from which both their children also graduated and have lived in the same house for many years. They have a vested interest in the community, which has given them so much, through Tri-CED, their home and the school district.

To make reservations, download an order form at and send with a check (payable to: New Haven Schools Foundation) to: New Haven Schools Foundation, 33377 Western Ave., Union City, CA 94587 or contact Barbara Aro-Valle at (510) 471-3850 or email

Show of Shows
Saturday, May 22
6:30 - 10:30 p.m.
James Logan High School Performing Arts Center
Union City
(510) 471-3850
$50 per ticket

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