Town Crier: Montera Middle’s musical instruments damaged


Grace Gulli, an eighth-grader at Montera Middle School, won the Best Jazz Soloist category at a 2018 Music in the Parks festival. Unfortunately, when she and other Montera Middle music students were returning from the event, several of the school’s musical instruments were damaged when they fell out after a side panel on one of their school buses opened on Interstate 880.

MONTCLARION: June 8, 2018

When musicians at Montera Middle School hit the road recently, they had no idea that some of their instruments would hit the road too — literally. 

Coming back from a competition in which they earned top honors, the side panel on one of their rented yellow school buses popped open on the 880 freeway and … you can guess what happened next.

“A trumpet and bass clarinet jumped off, and they were obliterated on the freeway,” says parent Kim Cardoso, who first alerted me to the incident. And these weren’t just any instruments. They were royalty.

“One was a King Trumpet that has been with OUSD for eight years,” says Music Director Eric Swihart, who adds that the Normandy Vito Bass Clarinet was a $2,000 instrument the district had used since 1962.

So what’s the big deal, you ask? Can’t they just replace them? Turns out the bus company will pay only part of the cost — a sour note, indeed, for an award-winning music program that’s already underfunded.

“Montera Middle is not some ‘hills school,’ ” says Cardoso. “It reflects the ethnic diversity of Oakland. It’s also not well-resourced. Fifty-seven percent of our kids qualify for free lunch.”

She says the music program has grown to 500 students under Swihart’s skilled leadership but that many of the students can’t afford to buy or rent their own instruments, so the school provides them.

“We just can’t afford to lose any instruments when most of our current collection is rough and could already use some help,” Cardoso says.

That’s where we come in. Many of us have instruments we no longer play. Let’s think about donating them to the Montera music program. And of course, cash is king, especially when it comes to replacing a King Trumpet. If you would like to help, contact Swihart at or read further details about the music program at

On film: Local actress Indigo Jackson has scored her first role in the Oakland-based feature film “Sorry to Bother You” coming out July 6. Her mom, film and book reviewer Regan McMahon, calls the movie “a fresh, wild, clever, funny, biting social and political satire that deals with race, media, corporate greed and more.” Check out the trailer at Indigo is the girl getting the back-bending kiss at the beginning.

Stage notes: As we approach the Fourth of July, the Berkeley Rep is offering a refresher course for citizens and noncitizens alike. “What the Constitution Means to Me” runs through June 17 and is a delightfully engaging memoir by actress and writer Heidi Schreck, who takes the audience back to her high school days and the speeches she gave on the Constitution. Check out the trailer at

Musical note: ‘Frank fans’ will love this year’s Montclair Village Beer, Wine & Music Festival. The Sinatra tribute band Jet Blaq is playing at the one-day street party (between Medau Place and La Salle Avenue) on June 16. Sinatra did it his way, and you can too with tastings from 20 breweries and wineries. See for details.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web


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