|Excerpts from the Wisconsin State Journal (January 13, 2005) |
The subject of the article was a donation made to the Theater Renovation Fund by custodian Jim Ely, who was a guest conductor at the Orchestra concert that year.
Jim Ely loves music and the arts. He also loves Madison East High School. It's where he and his wife, Judy, who died of ovarian cancer in February 2003, were high school sweethearts more than 30 years ago...
Ely, who makes about $40,000 a year, has donated $5,000 toward improvements to the auditorium in his wife's memory. Part of the money will go toward replacing the 350 red plastic seats Ely refers to as "bowling alley chairs" with theater-style seats. "I just did it because I love East High School," said Ely
About a year ago, Jackie Dhoore Becker, orchestra director at East, launched an effort to improve the school's auditorium, where students in orchestra, band, chorus and theater perform. So far, the school has replaced five sections of the acoustic shell, which projects sound out to the audience.
"They were really an accident waiting to happen," Ely said of the sections that have been replaced.
Two more sections still need to be replaced at $1,800 each, along with an acoustic ceiling for the shell.
"I personally believe the arts and music are underrated as far as their importance in education today," Ely said, adding that they also are underfunded.
"If my last name was Frautschi, I would have donated enough to knock out the wall," Ely said, referring to Jerry Frautschi, who donated $205 million for the construction of the Overture Center for the Arts.
Instead, Ely is challenging fellow alumni to follow his lead and make whatever donation they can.
"There's a lot of kids that have come through this school," Ely said. "If someone steps forward with enough money, maybe we can rip those walls out."
Though East has changed a lot since he was a student, Ely said, "It still has the same climate."
"It's a community high school," he said. "It's an East Side presence of hard-working, blue-collar people."
Donations to the East High Theater Renovation can be sent to the school at 2222 E. Washington Ave., Madison WI 53704-5295.