A Chorus Of Approval
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A Chorus Of Approval

Grand Circle Foundation continues its harmonious partnership with the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School

In 2004, Tatiana Alexeeva, Area Manager in Grand Circle's Russian office in St. Petersburg, began looking to expand to a new Foundation site. She discovered the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School, and launched a partnership that resonates to this day.

Known locally as School No. 8 "Muzyka" St. Petersburg, the co-ed school provides 250 students, ages seven to 17, with academics through secondary-school level, accompanied by the highest level of music education. Half the students board at the school, and room and board are free to those who are from poor or troubled families or orphanages, or whose home is a distance away. It is the only school of its kind in all of northwest Russia.

This past spring, Tatiana consulted with the school's principal, Irina Olegovna Tovpich, about where the school most needed our help next. Irina replied that the school's choir was badly in need of uniforms. The choir consists of about 100 girls, ages 12 to 17, who perform a varied repertoire that includes classical 19th-century pieces, World War II patriotic songs, folk songs, and pop music. Because the choir participates in different city events and festivals, it is important for them to look as polished as they sound.

Grand Circle Foundation approved a budget of $4,448 as the cost for the project, and Irina and Tatiana began to look for a manufacturer. The uniforms would be passed down from one class of students to the next, so they needed to be long-lasting. They also needed to be easy to wash and maintain. And they needed to be something the girls would be proud to wear. Unfortunately, the uniforms that were available within the budget "did not look nice enough and were made of cheap materials which are not going to last long," says Tatiana.

Mothers of students in the choir got involved. One of the mothers works for a small, private sewing company and offered her help in choosing fabric at wholesale prices and sewing the 100 concert dresses for a reasonable sum.

At that point, the young women in the choir were involved in discussions of the design of the uniforms, which had to be comfortable and flatter any figure, while still meeting school standards. The students decided on blue for the color and were very active in selecting the fabric for their concert dresses. They also gave input on the cut of the garments (with some adjustment by the teachers), which are long with a modest neckline, and sleeveless so that they can be worn with different blouses. As Tatiana puts it, "They not only look nice, they can be identified as a choir."

The purchase of uniforms for the choir is just the latest of many projects Grand Circle Foundation has undertaken for the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School. On the brink of closure when we first partnered with it, the school has since moved into a new building, which the Foundation helped to support not only with donations, but also with furnishings and equipment from our then-newly refurbished Russian river ship.

We have also provided audio equipment for the school's concert hall and helped the school orchestra with the recording and printing of its first CDs, and Foundation donations have been used to fund the establishment of a computer lab, to invest in new instruments, and to renovate the school's kitchen, restrooms, bedrooms, and heating system.

We look forward to continuing to make beautiful music together in the years ahead.

Featured in our July/August/September 2013 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.