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The Lawrence Academy of Music has been awarded a $28,000 arts education grant by the National Endowment of the Arts to support its growing jazz education programs for area youths.

The NEA grant will support the Academy of Music’s summer Jazz Odyssey program — a five-day camp that begins July 21 — as well as two new initiatives that will begin this fall. In September, the Academy of Music will launch both a new after school jazz program and a Saturday morning jazz component designed to enhance current school music experiences and provide creative new opportunities.

Both programs will be open to area students in grades 6-12 who are currently playing an instrument or singing. Led by a staff of three or more instructors, the two new programs will feature specialized offerings in the history of jazz and its Afrocentric roots, jazz improvisation and composition and small-group combo performance experiences.

Fred Snyder, director of the Lawrence Academy of Music, is hoping to attract 25-40 students for both the after-school and Saturday morning programs, which he said will be designed to augment, rather than compete with, music programs currently offered in area schools.

“Jazz is extremely popular in this area and we’re very excited about the possibilities this difficult-to-come-by NEA grant will provide,” said Snyder.

“We’re confident the launch of these two new initiatives targeting area middle and high school jazzophiles will provide them with the kind of opportunities that aren’t currently available elsewhere in the Fox Valley. One of the reasons we even applied for this grant was as a response from area school music educators who were asking us for this kind of assistance. We’re hoping these new jazz programs can help meet some of those needs.”

The Lawrence Academy of Music was one of only four Wisconsin arts organizations awarded a grant by the NEA for 2003 in the organization’s arts education category.

Founded in 1874 as a division of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, the Lawrence Academy of Music provides personalized music instruction to community residents. Originally established as the Preparatory Program, it became known as the Lawrence Arts Academy in 1990. Last summer, it changed its name to the Lawrence Academy of Music to better define its role as a music education provider.

Featuring a staff of close to 50 music specialists, the Academy of Music serves nearly 1,900 area students ranging in age from six months to 18 years old through a variety of enrichment and instructional programs, including early childhood music, private instrument lessons and classes in music theory, voice and chamber music.

The Academy also sponsors eight ensembles, including five girl choirs, two bands and a string orchestra. Its summer Odyssey program features a series of day camps that explore topics on music fundamentals, creative dramatics, singing, eurhythmics, creative writing, visual arts and more.