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Community Heroes: Ex-volunteer music teacher Ann Marie Haney orchestrates instrument donations for schools

La Jolla resident Ann Marie Haney has volunteered for decades to try to improve music education in San Diego public schools.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Longtime La Jolla resident Ann Marie Haney has worked for decades to ensure that music education in area public schools doesn’t fall flat. Though paid only in the confidence she nurtures in the students she serves, Haney continues to donate her time to a cause she says is “very rewarding.”

Haney said her passion for music began at age 5 when she began playing piano, a skill she fine-tuned into college, where she majored in music at Scripps College in Claremont in Los Angeles County and earned a master’s degree in music from the University of Michigan.

Haney moved to San Diego in 1962 and four years later began volunteering to teach music to her daughter’s kindergarten class at Grant Elementary School in Mission Hills, as there was no music teacher on staff.

In 1968, the Haney family moved to La Jolla and her children attended Torrey Pines Elementary School, which also lacked a music teacher.

“The principal asked me if I would start a choir before school,” said Haney, who began volunteering there in 1969 and “ended up teaching the whole school.”

Haney, who also was director of the La Jolla Presbyterian Church youth choir for 12 years, retired from volunteering at Torrey Pines Elementary in 1990. After having taught so many children through their elementary school years, she found she “couldn’t even go near the school, it was so emotional for me.”

“There’s a lot of bonding and emotional attachment,” Haney said. “I saw the transformation in the children as they performed.”

Just as she retired from Torrey Pines, Martin Chambers, then-director of the San Diego State University School of Music and Dance, and Mary McKenzie, a voice teacher on the SDSU faculty and a longtime La Jollan, began an organization called the Community Council for Music in the Schools to address “the lack of music in San Diego schools,” Haney said.

She became a founding member of CCMS, a nonprofit under SDSU’s The Campanile Foundation. She said it “really had an impact,” starting with a donation in 1991 of two flutes from a teacher whose daughters no longer needed them.

Haney said she realized “there are a lot of people who have instruments that are languishing. So that’s when we started collecting instruments,” helped by local television and radio stations spreading the word.

Haney’s husband of 62 years, retired ophthalmologist William Haney, began to engrave all the donated instruments with “CCMS” and a number. He has engraved well over 2,000 instruments so far.

The instruments are stored in Pacific Beach and loaned to music teachers throughout the San Diego Unified School District.

“They tell me what they need,” Ann Marie Haney said, “everything from cellos and basses to trumpets and trombones and clarinets and flutes and percussion instruments.”

She said all money donated goes toward maintenance and storage of the instruments.

To ensure the instrument program continues, Haney established the Ann Marie Haney Endowment for Music in 2019, which she hopes will collect enough funds to pay a staff member in the future.

“I’m still a volunteer,” she said.

Haney said she’s moved to promote music education by the influence of her father, Harold Kitchen, an “introverted engineer” who began to play trombone in the UC Berkeley band.

Playing music gave her father “a place to get to know people and have some social interaction,” Haney said. He went on to play in the Bohemian Club orchestra in San Francisco, further expanding his contacts.

Music “was the joy of his life,” Haney said. “It just absolutely transformed him.

“I just know that the transformation in my father’s life was responsible for my drive to see that other children had this opportunity.”

She said her 50-plus years of playing up music education have “been such a blessing in my life. I run into former students and parents, and that’s really very heartwarming.”

For more information or to donate to the cause, visit bit.ly/Haneyfund or email emoersch@sdsu.edu.

Community Heroes logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

The La Jolla Light’s Community Heroes series for the holiday period highlights people who aren’t often in the news but make a difference in the lives of others.