There’s something oddly similar about the experience of going to a symphony concert and participating in a race. You mark the date on your calendar, get dressed up, fight for parking, and if you’re like me, you may worry that you’re not even going to make it through the whole thing! Then you arrive at the event, and you’re suddenly struck with an immediate sense of togetherness. You’re surrounded by a group of people — whether it’s 45 people or 3,000 – with a common goal, a shared sense of excitement. You are all in it together.
One of the most rewarding aspects of playing in a symphony orchestra is the powerful sense of shared experience that washes through the hall night after night. Bringing that experience outside the hall and solidifying our connections within our community is one the ways that we musicians can build on and heighten the intense bond created by music. A few years ago, we came up with the idea to host a 5K walk/run to raise money for local music programs. What better way could there be to connect with our community than to spend a fall morning together in the beautiful outdoors with musicians, staff, board members, patrons, volunteers, and all the other people who make up our PSO family socializing and exercising to the sounds of live music wafting through the fresh air off the Allegheny River? And to make it even more meaningful, we would donate 100% of the proceeds to the PSO Musicians Care Fund, an endowment established in 2014 by the Musicians of the PSO that offers critical funding to local schools and community music programs. The planning began! We had no idea what we were doing, but we figured it out along the way: permits, insurance, registration, timing, and so on.
The first Musicians of Steel 5K Walk/Run was held in September of 2017, and it was successful beyond all our expectations! Over 300 people registered to walk or run, dozens of musicians performed live along the course, and the generous sponsorship of of around 50 local businesses defrayed the entire cost of the race, making it possible to donate every penny of registration fees to the PSO Musicians Care Fund. Over the past three years, this event has raised more than $30,000 for music programs in need, offering funding for musical instruments, music lessons, instrument repairs, scholarships, and transportation to PSO educational performances. One of last years’s grant recipients was music teacher Suellen Engelhard of Sto-Rox Junior Senior High School, who is using the grant money to purchase instruments for students to practice at home during this period of virtual learning. Elementary school students of Katie Miller in the Woodland Hills School District have been able to attend PSO Schooltime Concerts for several years now due to funding for transportation from the Musicians Care Fund. And Marylou Bushyager has used Musicians Care Fund grants to provide instruments for her students at Allegheny Traditional Academy on the Northside. These are just a few of the wonderful community programs that have been supported by the Musicians of Steel. The beneficiaries of this year’s race proceeds will include the Afro-American Music Institute, Urban Impact, and Hope Academy of Music and the Arts.
These days, everything feels different. In this world of masks and social distancing, we are all constantly searching for anything that leads to that sense of connection. We’ve tried staying in touch through Facebook, Zoom — anything that gives us access to that powerful sense of common experience we are so craving. Instead of grieving what we’ve lost, let’s celebrate what our collective efforts can accomplish! To continue the tradition of the Musicians of Steel 5K Walk/Run, we are going virtual this year! You can run, walk, unicycle, or somersault your way through 1 mile, 5K, or 10K from anywhere in the world, at any time between September 26 and October 4, and with whomever is in your social pod. We can still share this experience and help bring the opportunity of music education to our community.
To learn more, register, donate, or become a sponsor, visit www.musiciansofsteel5k.com. Follow and post your training and race pictures on a Facebook and Instagram @musiciansofsteel5K. Let’s be in this together!