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Classroom Cash Grant program makes beautiful music

September 25, 2013

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Lincoln Middle School Director of Bands Tom Torrento works in class with students Sept. 19. Torrento recently updated the school’s sheet music library with a $750 Michigan Schools & Government Credit Union Classroom Cash Grant.

WARREN — The importance of music education has always been known, but Lincoln Middle School Director of Bands Tom Torrento said it is “one of the first things that struggles, in terms of budget.”

So when the music educator learned of the Michigan Schools & Government Credit Union’s Classroom Cash Grant program last year, he applied for and received a $750 grant.

LMS is part of Van Dyke Public Schools. MSGCU is located in Clinton Township.

The grant money was used to renovate the school’s sheet music library from a “gross-looking janitor’s closet” into an organized, online data base that all educators within the district, including Lincoln High School Director of Bands Dan Taylor, can access.

Torrento used the grant money to purchase bookshelves, and a desk and chair for the music library. Some of the sheet music was 40 to 50 years old, and it now has a home in the online data base. The new library would not have been possible without the grant.

At press time, a film crew from the credit union was scheduled to visit the LMS band room Sept. 19 to document footage of the new music library and interview Torrento for the credit union’s website. 

“They’re using it as a story of success of what the program allowed us to do,” Torrento said.

Torrento, a 2001 graduate of Warren Consolidated Schools’ Cousino High School, instructs three band classes at LMS: sixth grade, seventh grade and eighth grade. He also teaches two vocal music classes and a sixth-grade music apprecation class.

Torrento always wanted to be a band teacher. His dad “was a big music guy,” and he had an uncle who played the trumpet.

“It was a really sweet instrument,” said Torrento, who followed in his uncle’s footsteps.

Torrento’s middle school band teacher also influenced him.

Beyond what he has already received, Torrento would like to acquire new sheet music and has applied for another grant this school year. This year’s Classroom Cash Grant program kicked off Sept. 16 and is open to teachers throughout Southeastern Michigan to receive a grant of up to $750.

To become eligible, teachers can submit an application detailing their project or need before Oct. 4 at Teaches then promote their project on the website to garner votes of support. Online voting is open Oct. 8-22. The projects receiving the most votes receive the grants.  Winners are announced Oct. 25.

“Anyone can go through and see all the submissions,” MSGCU President and CEO Peter Gates said, adding there were more than 100 entries last year.

Recipients must either be a member of MSGCU or become a member before receipt of the award.

Teachers can then ask students, parents, colleagues, community members and friends to vote on their video. Credit union representatives plan to distribute $40,000 in grant money this year.

Knowing teachers are often short on resources, Gates said the Classroom Cash Grant program began in 2005 as a way to give back to the community.

“Teachers like to be creative to help students learn,” Gates said. “We wanted to give teachers an oportunity to add to their classroom. We created a budget for this program.”

Gates said about $250,000 in grant money has been distributed to teachers since the program began.

“We like to go to the classroom and present the reward to the teacher,” Gates said. “It’s pretty neat to see their reaction.”

For more information on the Classroom Cash Grant Program, visit and, or call MSGCU at (586) 263-8800 or (866)-MSGCU4U. 

In the meantime, VDPS district officials are always in need of donated instruments, especially clarinets, flutes, trombones, trumpets and saxophones. They don’t have to be in working order. Donations can be made at LMS at 22500 Federal Ave. For more information, contact Tom Torrento at

About the author

Staff Writer Maria Allard covers the school districts of Center Line, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke, Warren Consolidated and Warren Woods, and Macomb Community College for the Warren Weekly newspaper. She also covers northeast Detroit, the City of Harper Woods and the Harper Woods District Schools for the Advertiser Times newspaper, and the City of Grosse Pointe Woods and the Grosse Pointe Public Schools System for the Grosse Pointe Times newspaper. Allard has worked for C&G Newspapers since 1995, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University.

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