When Daniel and Norbert “Bert” Beihoff made a special gift to Pius XI Catholic High School and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee nearly 35 years ago, they provided a legacy that has touched the lives of hundreds of local Catholic school children.
The Beihoff brothers, who owned and operated the Milwaukee-based Beihoff Music, wanted to provide greater support for the instrumental music programs of small Catholic schools in the Milwaukee area, helping insure that arts education would be made available to as many children as possible.
Bonnie J. Scholz, the Performing Arts Department Chair at Pius XI Catholic High School and Performing Arts Academy Executive Director, noted that this early gift marked a turning point for instrumental music education for many Catholic School children.
“Daniel Beihoff set aside money so that once or twice a week the students from smaller schools could come to Pius XI High School to play in a more complete, larger band. We used to call it ‘Wednesday Night Band,’” Scholz said. The gift even led to the purchase of the first computer at Pius XI Catholic High School, a resource for cataloging the music used by the “Wednesday Night Band.”
Over the years, the Beihoff name was largely forgotten and the recipients of the annual subsidy provided by the endowment he created decades ago had forgotten their anonymous benefactor.
Among those benefiting from the endowment was the Pius XI Performing Arts Academy, which receives a much-needed annual subsidy. The money is used to refurbish instruments and purchase music and instruments for the academy’s programs. “I often told the archdiocese that I’d love to send a ‘thank you’ note to someone for this generous gift,” Scholz remarked, “but the archdiocese would say, ‘we don’t know who this is. We don’t have any record.’” Scholz had always suspected that this endowment was connected to the decades old gift from the Beihoffs that supported the “Wednesday Night Band,” but no one was able to confirm this.
Earlier this year, as the Performing Arts Academy was preparing to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Scholz decided it was time to find the Beihoffs, but was having little success. A visit to the Pius XI High School admissions office changed all of that. “A new freshman was registering for classes,” Scholz recalled, “and his last name was Beihoff. His dad was sitting right next to him and I said, ‘Would you be related to the Biefhoffs who contributed to a fund here at the high school and ran Beihoff Music?” The father and son she met that day were, in fact, the son and grandson of Daniel Beihoff. This chance meeting allowed Scholz and her colleagues to connect with Beihoff and, in a remarkable turn of events, Pius XI was able to honor Daniel Beihoff with their Pius XI Performing Arts Academy Lifetime Achievement Award at their 10th anniversary gala on May 23.
The gifts that the Beihoff brothers offered so many years ago has been enhanced through the ongoing generosity of White House of Music, the company that purchased Beihoff music in 2007. This support has allowed the Performing Arts Academy to expand its outreach from serving one school 10 years ago, to providing instrumental music education and support to more than 200 students in 11 archdiocesan schools. “Pius XI Catholic High School gave us the go-ahead and told us to serve these kids. At the time, we were seeing kids who had never seen a trumpet or who have never had an art or music class,” Scholz said. “That’s when our little band of performing arts teachers said, ‘We have to do something about this.’” The Performing Arts Academy continues to rely on community donations to continue their work of providing arts opportunities for urban Catholic school students.
Scholz firmly believes in the importance of arts education in providing a solid foundation for young learners and is proud of the work the Performing Arts Academy has done to enrich the lives of so many area students. Recalling a recent conversation with young musician, Scholz said, “I asked her, ‘what have you learned from the Academy that you could transfer to your other school work?’ and the she replied, ‘Mrs. Scholz, I’ve learned that if I could master third position on the violin, I can do anything!’”
To learn more about the Pius XI Performing Arts Academy and their programming, visit: www.piuspac.org/academy