Carson City rallies to support Sue Jesch

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If there’s a musician who influences aspiring musicians at Carson City schools, it’s Sue Jesch.

The founder of Carson City Symphony’s “Strings in the Schools” program hasn’t only been teaching music, but also impacting the lives of many at local schools for over a decade.

But for the last two years, Jesch, 63, has been fighting Parkinson’s disease and her symptoms have made it difficult to keep up with daily activities.

That includes teaching the after-school program.

“It’s hard for us to see her like this,” said Emma Rosen, 15, a violinist and longtime student of Jesch’s. “We want her to be able to do the things she used to do for us. She has brought so much to this town. Without her, there wouldn’t be a strings program in Carson City.”

She usually works with the orchestra at least 70 hours a week and teaches 150 kids between schools, lessons and private lessons.

But her conditions caused her to cut back lessons to 20 kids.

“She really opened a door for me in musical opportunities,” said Eleanor Sturm, 15, also a student of Jesch for seven years. “Music is a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t be playing the violin if it weren’t for her.”

The program is funded in part by grants from the Nevada Arts council, National Endowment for the Arts, Partnership Carson City, Soroptimist International of Carson City, Terry Lee Wells Foundation, and other private donations of funds and instruments.

Although Jesch is going through a transition, she isn’t letting limitations fully stop her. Her last Christmas play-along concert for local violinists is Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Carson Mall.

At least 60 musicians of all ages are expected to perform, including a mixture of Jesch’s former and current students, and members from the local symphony.

“She’s been doing these concerts since I met her,” said Gary Jesch, her husband of six years. “She gave me the emcee role a few years back so she could focus on conducting.”

Carson Mall has hosted the concert for Jesch for eight years and she will be passing the torch to Brian Fox, the new strings orchestra director of Carson High School. She also is in the process of donating instruments to his new class.

“She truly is a legend of music in Carson City,” Fox said. “I feel like I inherited a mass amount of dedication and inspiration from her. The responsibility of taking on what she started, along with other band directors, is an honor.”

“I’m more of a commander in chief,” Jesch said. “As a part of the Carson City Symphony, we did this together. I’m so grateful the program will be continuing and not left in the dust.”

The after-school program was created by Jesch in 2004 as a part of Carson City Symphony. By 2011, she convinced the school district to integrate the program and added strings courses as electives. During that year, Jesch received the Governor’s Arts Award for Leadership in Arts Education.

“All of her students know how to play because of her,” Gary said. “Her influence put a few of her students in the Reno Orchestra. It’s a nice accomplishment to see.”

In the meantime, members of the community are teaming up to support Jesch in infinite ways. Some of her students are volunteering at the after-school program to help educate students.

Lissette Rivas, 16, a junior at CHS, has been taking violin lessons from Jesch for seven years. She assists Jesch by helping out in the after-school program twice a week and in summer school programs.

“She changed my life,” she said. “She was my role model, my guide and my teacher. My love for music has grown because of her.”

Elinor Bugli, president of Carson City Symphony, hosted a Go Fund Me page to help with Jesch’s medical expenses, raising more than $11,000 via the Symphony and private donations in two months. The goal is to reach $15,000.

The local symphony has been around for 33 years and everything the organization envisioned has happened thanks to Jesch, said Bugli.

“We’ve always wanted an after school program,” she said. “Now, it’s an elective in schools. The people she trained were able to step in to help her during this time and everything is running smoothly.”

Even future generations of orchestral musicians are learning about Jesch. On the morning of Dec. 14, the Jeschs opened their front door to 25 caroling third graders from Carson Montessori School.

They brought her roses and gifts, and sang Christmas tunes with violins.

It was a powerful moment for the couple, as they felt the performance was a personal gift from the community.

“This is something that may not happen ever again,” Gary said. “To see those kids singing to us on our yard, it’s so rich. We want to live another decade to have more of those.”

Even though she’s still teaching private lessons, Jesch also donated her time and expertise to Carson Montessori.

She will always reminisce teaching at the schools.

“Music is a subject of the heart,” she said. “You’re dealing with emotions, feelings, and stage fright. I miss being with all students.”


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