Music can have a profound effect on everything from our mood to our ability to learn and concentrate. A 2007 study published in the Journal for Research in Music Education tied quality music education instruction to improved academic performance — specifically, better scores on standardized tests.

No one seems to know this better than Rita Major, director of education for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. “We are a two-pronged organization, serving as both a concert presenter and as a music educator,” explains Major of the 59-year-old nonprofit. She witnesses music’s benefits firsthand through the many concerts and mobile music events that she coordinates with school districts. The Society's Youth Education Programs, some of the most extensive of their kind in the country, are offered free of charge to schools, students, and parents. Each year they reach nearly a quarter of a million youth, ranging from first graders to high-school seniors.

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Major has also served as the organization’s unofficial IT expert for the past 18 years. “As a small staff of 12, we all have multifaceted jobs,” she says. “The positions tend to mold around the interests and skills of the person who’s doing them.” Major, who’s always been a bit of a computer geek, keeps the office running smoothly, even though she admits, “we’re not exactly on the vanguard of new technology.” But when systems and software reach end of life, upgrades become crucial to supporting work efficiency and effectiveness.

Last year, when The Society upgraded its Microsoft server software and 15 new computers to Office 2010 and Windows 7, Major rejoiced. Before the upgrade, the organization was running Office 2003, and its server software was sorely out of date. “We were beginning to feel like we were behind the times,” Major remembers. “We couldn’t always read email attachments and were using all kinds of makeshift translators. The nice thing about upgrading is that you can always save a document in an older version if need be.” With the help of Microsoft donations through TechSoup, The Society is able to keep its software up-to-date without breaking the bank.

 

In addition to extreme organization and a passion for music, Major’s role requires her to use Word to create lots and lots of color-coded charts so upwards of 60 volunteer ushers can quickly seat as many as 2,200 students in just a few minutes. What once took her four or five steps can now be done in one easy click. “The new Microsoft Ribbon offers a lot more choices and has simplified what was once a tedious process.” she says. This translates into being able to pack even more events into an already bursting-at-the-seams schedule.

“When I first learned about TechSoup a few years ago, I thought, ‘Wowzer! I have to sign us up!’” she recalls. “Our Microsoft donations have allowed us to stay up-to-date while we devote even more of our time and resources to bringing music education to kids all across Orange County.”

More about nonprofit software donations from Microsoft

Do you work with a nonprofit?  The Microsoft nonprofit software donation program, which is operated in partnership with TechSoup provides software donations to eligible nonprofit organizations around the world.  Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/ngo.