By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School choir’s CD project started as a way for the group to raise funds to purchase new robes, but with the assistance of some local business partners, it gradually grew to something more.

“Our expectations were to fulfill a small goal, and what came out of it was an opportunity to do more,” said A.J. Nash, the CD’s producer and a partner in Divine Productions, the choir’s financial backer in the venture.

The project began after brainstorming sessions resulted in a handshake agreement to produce a Christmas season CD in 2010, but Divine Productions quickly spawned the Divine Foundation.

“One of the things we learned was that it would be easier to have our own facility than to bounce around and we don’t have a top-of-the-line studio in the Salem area,” Nash said. “We set up a foundation that works alongside the production company and we’re targeting donors to provide facilities that will create an opportunity for public school students to take part in a program that allows the best students work with the best people in the area.”

The hope is to generate enough interest, and the financial backing, to set up a high-end studio where students can produce their work and generate revenues that can sustain music programs in the area’s public schools. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the McNary CD will go back to the Divine Foundation for its investment in the production, but the bulk goes back to the Celtic choir program to purchase new robes and other needed equipment.

“If we create the facility, the students can help sustain it and generate a stream of revenue back into their school programs,” Nash said.

Nash and his partners, James Hauge and Brian Zielinski, haven’t yet approached the school district with the potential they see in the program, but their optimistic given the fervor surrounding the release of the McNary CD, “A Season of Love.”

As a result of the effort put into the CD, McNary’s choir program is currently a semifinalist for the Grammy Signature School Award. The Celtic program is one of only 150 schools in the nation to be considered and two in Oregon.

“If we can harness the talent, we might be get people jobs right out of high school,” Nash said. “And if it’s a success at this level, we know we can make it work at a higher level.”