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Music Matters hosting Jazz in January event to raise money for orchestra program in Willmar, Minn.

Orchestra instructor Lisa Zeller, right, helps Darren Seubert tune his bass during fourth-grade orchestra rehearsal Tuesday at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)

WILLMAR — The chance to dance to a live jazz orchestra doesn’t come along all that often.

Willmar Music Matters is offering it Saturday night in a fundraiser for the Willmar Public Schools’ music programs.

“Jazz in January: A Night of Music” is a dinner, dance and silent auction at the Willmar Conference Center, featuring the 18-piece Mill Pond Jazz Orchestra. High school musicians will perform during dinner and before the orchestra hits the stage.

Don’t know how to swing dance? No problem, instruction from Sheila Bass will be provided before the dance begins.

A silent auction will feature a variety of items, including handmade clothing and jewelry, a guitar, gift certificates, donated services and gift baskets. A large collection of sheet music will be on the auction, too.

Doors for the event open at 5:30 p.m., and dinner begins at 6 p.m. Swing dance instruction will begin at 7 p.m., and high school music groups will play until 8 p.m. The dance begins at 8 p.m., and the silent auction closes at 9 p.m.

The family friendly event will close at 10 p.m. No alcohol will be served at the event, but guests will not be prohibited from buying drinks at the bar and bringing them in.

Tickets for the dinner and dance are $25 per person and are available only in advance. A limited number of dinner tickets are still available by calling 295-1676.

Admission to the dance only is $10 per person or $25 per family.

Music Matters was formed in 2009 when budget cuts started affecting the Willmar School District music programs.

In its first year, it donated money to the district to fund a half-time music teaching position at Willmar Senior High.

When the district eliminated elementary band and orchestra, Music Matters took up the cause of the elementary orchestra program. It has funded the orchestra program ever since, raising about $90,000 over three years to keep it going.

The group hopes the Legislature will find a way to fund schools adequately, so that Willmar will be able to resume some music funding, said Darlene Schroeder. She has been part of the leadership of Music Matters since it started.

Schroeder said cuts at the elementary level and schedule changes at the Middle School have had a big impact on the district’s performance music program.

“We’re looking at what we can do to provide kids with more opportunities,” she said. The students who are performing Saturday are excited about it.

The group would prefer to be raising money for other things, like instruments or transportation to events, she said.

“We really feel the funding of the core program should be with the school district,” she said. “We would like to see the community embrace the arts all the way around.”

Music Matters is a partner of the Southwest Initiative Foundation so donors can make tax-deductible donations.

For more information, to make a donation or to view silent auction items, go to the group’s website,

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340