[heading] by ZEENA GREGG | photo by Spark Photography [/heading]

Bernardo Heights resident and musician, Tom Burkey, grew up playing music and singing in his mother’s choir. Tom and wife, Jennifer, have two daughters – Sarah, a senior at Rancho Bernardo High, and Kathryn, a fifth grader at Highland Ranch. They moved to the neighborhood four years ago for the schools, “But I love the fact that you can walk to groceries, stores and restaurants,” said Tom.

A former music teacher with a degree in music, Tom truly understands the value of music education. With budget cuts continuing to affect the schools, Tom decided to be proactive. “I decided to stop complaining about the lack of extracurricular activities at our school [Highland Ranch Elementary] and do something positive,” said Tom. “I approached Principal Anita Watson with the idea to start a fourth and fifth grade chorus after school; she was extremely supportive.” The program started in January 2011 and later in the year they were able to add a music class for the second and third graders, also directed by Tom.

[quote]  “I decided to stop complaining about the lack of extracurricular activities at our school and do something positive.” ~ Tom Burkey [/quote]

One of the rewards for Tom is watching kids work hard and perform well. “Last year we sang our inaugural performance… The chorus sounded better than they ever did in rehearsal. As we continued to sing, the smile on the face of one of the girls kept getting bigger… Perhaps we ignited a life-long love of music that afternoon, but at the very least, that kid walked away with a great memory and a lesson in the value of hard work.”

Tom currently works as a staff pharmacist at Pomerado Hospital and credits his boss, Bill Turner, for adjusting the pharmacy schedule to allow Tom to attend chorus practices every week. He is also thankful to parents, the school’s Foundation, as well as the Principal and staff, who collectively provide support and funding for the music programs. Tom is also quick to point out that his efforts are not unique, citing several other schools who also have parent-run chorus programs. “Many parents are working throughout the Poway District to provide services to kids that have been lost as state funding has evaporated,” explained Tom.


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Name: Tom Burkey

Residence: Vista de Bernardo in Bernardo Heights

Affiliation: Highland Ranch Elementary School Chorus

Profession: Pharmacist

Family: Married with 2 children

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