Jules Woodard began her music education studying the flute, but quickly found the drums to be more to her liking. The senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School enjoyed the sheer volume she could drive from percussion instruments.

But Woodard isn’t aimlessly banging away, and in fact, has honed her skills quite well, according to her instructor. She’ll be on stage this weekend helping to raise money for the Music for Life Foundation, the very organization that helped fund her own music lessons.

“There are many very talented kids in this area who can’t pay for music lessons,” said Daniel Gasse, who runs the Gasse School of Music in Forest Park.

In 2004, Gasse created the Music for Life Foundation to grant scholarships to aspiring young musicians. To help fund these scholarships, the Foundation is presenting its Second Annual World Music Festival on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at First United Church.

“I thought I’d have to quit until I got the scholarship last year,” Woodard said.

The concert program will include music from Argentina, Turkey and Macedonia, as well as some down home bluegrass from the Farmers Market Musicians. One of the entertainers, John Milan, a Forest Park music teacher, will perform a duet with Woodard, a scholarship recipient and one of his prized percussionists.

“Jules was in the marching band and very dedicated to music at OPRF,” Milan said. “She also has a good academic standing, which is one of the criteria for the scholarship.”

Milan sits on the board of the Music for Life Foundation and sees a great need for music scholarships.

“I’ve noticed in the last three to four years that students lacked the ability to afford lessons,” Milan said. “The more the foundation is funded, the more kids we can help.”

At the benefit concert, Woodard will team up with her teacher to perform Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 on marimba.

A native of Argentina, Gasse has a deep interest in international music. When he was growing up, the cellist received free lessons in Argentina, where music education is publicly funded. His wife Sarah enjoyed a similar advantage taking free violin lessons in Great Britain. The couple wanted American children to receive this same musical gift.

Katie Rueda, a 10-year-old from Forest Park, is another Foundation recipient. Rueda learned how to read music while playing the recorder at Field-Stevenson. The Forest Park schools did not offer lessons for stringed instruments though, and Rueda’s first love was the violin.

For the past year and a half Rueda has received a scholarship for violin instruction from Susan Stutzman. Stutzman noted that Rueda comes from a very musical family; two of hers sisters play wind instruments and her brother plays the piano.

“Katie studies hard,” Stutzman said. “And her parents are very committed to her music education.”

Although Rueda enjoys all kinds of music, including rap, jazz violin is her favorite. She isn’t planning a career as a performer but would like to teach the violin to children someday.

Since its inception, the Foundation has granted about six scholarships a year. This money reduces the cost of lessons from $60 per hour, down to about $15 per hour.

“The scholarships are based on income and the recommendation of teachers,” Gasse said.

The Foundation has done so well, that Gasse and his wife no longer serve on the board. “It belongs to the community now,” Gasse said. The Foundation has a team of 10 people, with volunteers added for special events like the benefit concert.

Concertgoers will not only enjoy great music, they can win raffle prizes such as an iPod nano, Cubs tickets and dinners at area restaurants. Tickets are $15 per person, or $45 per family. For more information on the concert and the Foundation, the Web site is www.musicforlifefoundation.org.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.