At a recent meeting, Aiken County School Board members and district administrators formally recognized the Aiken Performing Arts Group for its contributions to education outreach in the county schools.


APAG also invites students to the URS Center for the Performing Arts for special performances and student participation. For more than six years, APAG has brought in virtually all musical genres – chamber music, classical, jazz, bluegrass, Broadway and more through vocalists and instrumentalists.


The organization has hosted more than 60 outreach programs that have featured national and international artists, said Tammie Newman, the school district’s public information specialist.


“APAG is a nonprofit that walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to keeping the music alive in our classrooms,” Newman said at the board meeting. “Our students and teachers appreciate the extended hand and entertaining lessons provided by this group.”


Representing APAG at the meeting were Tony Ateca, the program’s president, Arts Administrator Cathy Traver and Bob Kelley, the education outreach director. Ateca and Kelley are volunteers along with many others.


“I’ve been with them for two years, and it’s so neat to see the impact of it,” said Ateca. “It has been a big learning experience. In our last six shows, there is so much behind the scenes.”


Kelley also has supervised for the past three years “Instruments in Your Attic.” Many Aiken County residents and those beyond have donated scores of musical instruments to APAG. The organization has coordinated their repair and cleaning, and those suitable for use have gone on to bands and music programs in need.


“When the instruments are delivered to the schools, the students and music teachers come out, and it’s like Christmas,” Traver said. “We felt so honored and thankful at the meeting, and it validates the work our volunteers do.”


The donations were fantastic the first year, Kelley said. Perhaps not surprisingly, the number has decreased over the years. As a result, Kelley said, APAG began applying for grants, and its members and the School Board are excited by the generosity of two businesses. Praised at the meeting were Bi-Lo Charities for contributing $8,340, and Walmart on Richland Avenue for $4,830.


Accepting congratulations at the board meeting was Julia Butler, a Walmart assistant manager. The schools scheduled to receive the latest new and previously used instruments include New Ellenton Middle School, Ridge Spring-Monetta High School, Paul Knox Middle School, Schofield Middle School, J.D. Lever Elementary School and East Aiken School of the Arts.


APAG has provided some unusual programs. Traver noted that Kevin Spencer of Spencer’s Theater of Illusion worked with a small group of autistic children at one school and also met with special education teachers.


“He gave them some tools to help children learn in a different way,” Traver said.


Many principals and teachers have expressed their gratitude about the outreach efforts, among them Midland Valley High principal Carl White.


“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to get musical exposure,” White said. “They’ve gotten experiences they wouldn’t get to see all the time. I travel with them to special events, and I enjoy being in attendance with them.”