Paula and Mike Ziemski had been on the receiving end of an anonymous gift many years ago when struggling with unemployment. Someone quietly paid the balance of their children’s school tuition at Good Shepherd School in Braddock. They wanted to do something to pay that gift forward and had an opportunity to do so quite a few years later. Two of their three children went through the Norwin Band program. By that time, they were in a position to afford things like private lesions and music camps. They thought of how much their kids benefited and how terrific it would be to help someone else gain from experiences like these. Working with Robert Traugh, Norwin director of bands, to see where help was needed most, they worked together to create the fund and that’s how the Norwin Play it Forward Fund got its start.
In late 2009, they started as a fund within a fund housed with the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County. In 2011, the Norwin Play it Forward Fund was incorporated as a non-profit organization and established as an IRS 501©3 public charity.
The fund provides primarily need-based aid in the form of subsidies for private instrumental lessons and music camp grants for Norwin instrumental music students grades 5-12. The hope is that the beneficiary students will ultimately “play it forward” in time, talent and/or treasure – perhaps mentoring a younger instrumental student or ultimately giving back financially to the band, the orchestra, or to the fund itself in support of musical arts in the Norwin School District. Currently, the fund assists about 20 students with lessons and 6 attending music camps with summer with four at Summer Symposium at Ball State University and two to Penn State University’s summer music camp.
These days, when people fins themselves financially strapped, they have to choose where to do their charitable giving. The area has a number of esteemed non-profits from which to choose and our community gives generously. Mike and Paula hope to capture the attention of those who see music as valuable in the total educational picture and make enhanced music education within reach of everyone.
“The Norwin Chamber does a spectacular job of pulling local business people together and providing resources for anyone in business or who aspires to be an entrepreneur. We hope to make our own mark on the Chamber in some small way. The Norwin School District is to be commended for its support of the musical arts – the band, orchestra, music ensembles, chorus and theater programs are treasured community resources. The Norwin Chamber of Commerce is likewise and we are blessed to be able to be counted among its members”, states Paula.