Music students from Benedict Elementary show off their custom fabric recorder cases donated by the Surfside Quilters Guild. Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

San Clemente quilting group keeps music alive for elementary music program

By Cindy Arora

Sharon Evans gets to introduce the recorder to a new group of fourth graders in the Capistrano Unified School District every 12 weeks.

The students learn the charm of playing the traditional “Hot Cross Buns” song, “Happy Birthday,” and the occasional jazz improvisational piece. The recorder, according to Evans, is the perfect starter instrument for elementary-age children to dip their musical toes into.

This school year as Evans prepared to take her recorders on the road to schools and introduce them to kids, she realized the cases that kept each recorder protected weren’t doing their job, plus she no longer had enough for every recorder. With broken zippers and cloth cases that had shrunk, the cases desperately needed to be replaced but Evans couldn’t find a cost-effective solution. It was time for new cases, but how to get them, without buying new recorders, she wasn’t sure. So, like the music teacher she is, Evans improvised.

Vickie Janis, Linda Chiu, and Nancy Pestal deliver over 200 custom fabric recorder cases to the music students of Truman Benedict Elementary in San Clemente. From left, Juliet Janis, Vickie Janis, Linda Chiu, Nancy Pestal, Lyla Moorhead, Paisley Brennan, Sharon Evans and Pepper Jones.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

She bought paper wine bags when she ran out of the other cases. The wine bags were the perfect size for the narrow recorders, a temporary solution until she came up with a Plan B.

“Every year we loan recorders out to kids, we clean them up, sanitize, and send them back out. But the little sleeve bag, over time, began to shrink and you couldn’t close them and protect the recorder,” Evans said. “I started to wonder if there was a group of grandmas out there who liked to sew and who could make some for us.”

Enter the Surfside Quilters Guild in San Clemente.

The 200-strong quilters group in South Orange County holds meetings during the day, with most of the members retirees and grandmas who have the time to spend practicing the beautiful craft of quilting.

A big part of their organization is philanthropy. Members are busy each year making pillowcases and blankets for children at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, quilts for Marines, for seniors in the Meals and Wheels Program, and for kids in the foster system. Quilters from the Surfside Guild make and donate about 400 quilts a year.

Music students from Benedict Elementary check out their new custom fabric recorder cases donated by the Surfside Quilters Guild.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

This year when Co-Chairperson for Philanthropy Linda Chiu got the letter from Evans, the unique project was quickly approved, and the ladies of the Surfside Quilters Guild got to work.

“The recorder covers are something we’ve never done before, but we had the fabric, and it was a simple project, we just needed to form an assembly line,” Chiu said. “Someone ironed, someone was on the sewing machine … Everyone worked on it together and it came together fast.”

Surfside Quilters Guild member Vickie Janis has two grandchildren in the Capistrano Unified School District. She took the lead on the project and tried to get as many recorder covers done as possible before the group got busy with the holiday season, including their biggest fundraiser of the year, the Fall Fest.

“We’ve been able to finish about 100 covers, and it has been great to see the kids get excited about them,” said Janis, a retired seamstress. “It’s been such a fun thing to do for the school and for Mrs. Evans. She’s an exceptional music teacher.”

The Surfside Quilters Guild made custom fabric recorder cases for students in the CUSD.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Evans

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