By Bethany Bray
---- — If there’s anyone up to the challenge of raising $100,000 in six months, it’s Cynthia Napierkowski.
The longtime Salem High School band director launched a campaign this summer to raise funds for much-needed drum equipment, marching uniforms and instruments for beginner band students.
“I’m not a fundraising specialist. I’m doing this grass roots,” said Napierkowski. “None of this is about me. This is all about Salem kids. The band represents our school and our city around the country.”
Napierkowski’s campaign is in addition to the $20,000 worth of fundraising the Salem High School band boosters do each year to cover expenses not met by the school budget.
Her goal? Raise $100,000 by Feb. 1.
But Napierkowski is no stranger to challenge. When she took over the struggling SHS band program in 1987, the ensemble had 22 students who couldn’t even play their own school song.
The band has blossomed to more than 100 players during Napierkowski’s tenure. They travel and compete all over the U.S., including a trip planned to play at Carnegie Hall in March.
Napierkowski’s thriving program includes marching and concert bands, jazz band, fall and winter color guard and percussion ensemble.
“The kids are amazing,” she said. “I think that’s why I’ve stayed in Salem so long — because of the kids.”
After receiving an OK from the Salem School Committee and SHS Principal David Angeramo, Napierkowski kicked off the uniform fundraiser in June by sending out 1,000 letters seeking donations from local businesses and SHS band alumni.
She’s collected close to $5,500 so far and hopes the campaign spreads through word of mouth.
Her first goal is to raise $25,000 for the most urgent need: equipment for her marching band’s drum line. The school’s percussion equipment is so old that Napierkowski says replacement parts are no longer manufactured.
She hopes to be able to replace the drum equipment for this marching season.
“Paper clips and rubber bands only go so far (to repair equipment),” she said.
After drums, Napierkowski’s next priority is uniforms. The SHS band is marching in trousers, jackets and other pieces that are 17 years old. This is likely the last season they can make them work, she said.
“Our hats are literally held together by duct tape,” Napierkowski said. “Not only are (the uniforms) wearing out, but the size of the band continues to grow. We can barely fit the kids that we have.”
SHS has a set of roughly 135 uniforms, most with ripped seams, holes or missing buttons. Last year, 116 students were in band, and Napierkowski expects similar numbers this year. Ideally, you want 25 percent more uniforms than students, to be able to fit all shapes and sizes, she said.
After drums and uniforms, Napierkowski said any fundraising money left over will go toward instruments for Salem’s fourth-grade beginner band students, many of whom can’t afford equipment of their own.
The campaign hit a disappointment when Napierkowski was turned down by Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform. The company declined to host the fundraiser because it didn’t have a “culminating project,” she said.
“That was really, really rough,” she said. “We have to do a lot of legwork now (without a Web platform).”
Napierkowski said she hopes the Salem community will rally around her band, like it did for CinemaSalem co-owner Paul Van Ness, who raised more than $60,000 in December to convert the theater’s equipment for digital movie projection.
Through her 26 years in Salem, Napierkowski said her philosophy has been “if I can’t get it from the school budget, I’m going to try and raise it.”
In her fundraising letter, Napierkowski offered to print the names of donors in concert programs, give complimentary tickets to band performances and other incentives.
The new uniforms and other equipment are needs that will come up once every 15 years or so, she noted.
“I don’t want the uniform fundraiser to take away from what the boosters are trying to do (with fundraising),” Napierkowski said. “I’m confident, but I’m also scared of how much work (it will be) and what it’s going to take to get it done. I’m hopeful. The kids are worth it.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
HOW TO HELP
Monetary donations can be sent to Cynthia Napierkowski, Salem High School, 77 Willson St., Salem, MA 01970. Make checks payable to SHS MUSIC.
Have an unused musical instrument collecting dust at home? Napierkowski is also accepting donations of standard band or orchestra instruments — violins, trumpets, flutes, etc.
For further information, call 978-740-1136