Scenic Middle School band director John Foster during an impromptu 'jam session' with eighth graders (from left) Jordyn Mons, Rickie Rogers and Cassie Brown. The students fudnraised all year to raise money to supply the band with a dozen new instruments. - Buffy Pollock

Finishing on a high note

Agroup of eighth-grade band students spent their final year at Scenic Middle School working, in near secret, to leave a legacy for future musicians at their soon-to-be alma mater.

They let the rest of the Central Point school in on their secret Tuesday evening, when they presented band director John Foster with 11 new instruments and a host of supplies.

With shrinking school budgets in recent years, Foster had given up any notion of replacing the band's collection of ailing, dilapidated instruments.

Tuesday night's concert began with band students, followed by guitar players and chorus singers, all taught by Foster.

Some songs were more like jam sessions, as the band director of 20 years played alongside students, while other songs were more formal.

During the performance, Foster struggled with a piecemeal sound system and tuned and retuned old instruments between songs.

He was the only one who seemed unaware of the surprise in store.

Foster said he was still speechless on Wednesday, even after checking out the instruments.

"We haven't had new instruments ever since I've been here, and they were old when I got here," said Foster.

"We just always have to get people to rent because it's so expensive that I never have even thought about trying to do anything to buy instruments because money is so tight. I am completely speechless, completely surprised. A lot of students are going to benefit from what they did this year."

Jordyn Mons, an eighth-grade saxophone and guitar player, said the idea came about when students were helping ready the band room for other band students this fall.

"There were a lot of people in need of instruments because they couldn't afford one," said the 14-year-old. "So we were helping test out the school-owned instruments to see how many of them actually worked — and none of them really did. So we decided to make it our goal to buy 10 instruments for Mr. Foster to have when we left."

To that end, students spent the school year, unbeknownst to their teacher, collecting cash donations and soda cans, coordinating a jog-a-thon and even participating at a Christmas fair at Central Point Elementary School.

For the Christmas event, more than 50 students learned — or taught others — to knit hats to sell, along with other treats and gift items.

All told, students raised nearly $1,400, which equated, thanks to a deal from an online instrument wholesaler, to three flutes, three clarinets, two alto saxophones, a trombone and two trumpets.

Other supplies included music books, drum kits and a dozen metronomes.

Drum player Masen Kennish, 13, said meeting the goal showed what Foster has meant to his students.

"It was pretty awesome that we could go out and raise enough money, and the people we bought the instruments from even gave us a deal," he said.

"We really wanted to give him something this year that he could use to help new musicians at the school next year because he's a pretty awesome, exciting, fun teacher. He's been my favorite teacher by far, all three years."

Scenic Principal Sheila Henson said students always present Foster with heartfelt gifts.

"The tradition is that they give him a gift of some sort every year. Ties, plaques, posters, and they've all had total love and been unique and from the kids," Henson said.

"This gift this year was huge for children to do — and in total secret. When they approached me I kind of said to myself, 'Yeah, I don't know. That's a lot.' And just got out of their way, and they did it."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at

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