For Vera Risdon, who served as an educator at Renton School District for nearly 50 years, the mission is simple — stock the music shelves with as many instruments as possible.
As construction of the new middle school hits the final stages, Risdon — the namesake of the school — has partnered with Friends of Renton Schools for an instrument drive.
“(The drive) is inspired in part by the fact that music is my passion and vocation, and has been for a lifetime,” said Risdon. “Although there is district funding for musical instruments that comes with the school, it is not sufficient to provide for all the students might want. The combination of those two factors led us to collaborate to make this happen.”
Risdon’s passion to stock the music shelves dates back to her middle school days.
“When I got to middle school, I wanted to be in band but my mother didn’t have the means to purchase other instruments,” she said. “I went to the band director and he had on the shelf an oboe. That was my choice and that’s my primary instrument today. If I hadn’t been there, I probably wouldn’t have pursued this.”
Her identity as an educator is so closely tied with her identity as a musician, Risdon said her musical roots directly influenced her teaching practices.
“From my earliest experience learning piano and teaching piano when I was in high school, and teaching oboe later, my model for teaching was a performance one,” she said. “Now we talk about performance-based education, making sure kids are engaged, and making sure kids are not just receptacles into which we just pour knowledge. There’s a response, there’s an engagement and a going beyond that. That is how music and other performance arts work.”
According to Pam Teal, Friends of Renton Schools chair and RSD board member, the partnership is “wonderful” since music education is a priority to the foundation.