Joia tubes are a new addition to the music department at St. Bruno School in Dousman. They were purchased with a grant from the GIFTS Program. (Photo by Larry Hanson)

The idea came to Lisa Werner, a music teacher at St. Bruno School in Dousman, at one of her previous teaching positions when she took her public school class to see the Blue Man Group.

She saw them performing on a series of tubes and wanted to fabricate something similar for a rock-band class she was teaching.

A teacher friend of Werner’s told her about Joia tubes, a series of tubes that produce music through the use of a paddle, or mallet.

Enter the GIFTS (Grant Initiatives for Today’s Students) Program, which is the main beneficiary of the annual Archbishop’s Catholic Schools Dinner, which will be held March 10. Through the GIFTS program, all elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee can apply for a grant to enhance faith-based education, fund innovation in classroom teaching and enable schools to thrive. More than $600,000 in grants have been given over the past three years.

St. Bruno Principal Mary MacDonald described the GIFTS Program as “fantastic.”

Werner applied for and received a grant to purchase 16 sets of Joia tubes to supplement her musical instruction.

“She’s a go-getter, Lisa,” MacDonald said. “She asked if it would be OK if she applied for this and I said, ‘You go.’ It was all her idea. I totally support the wonderful things she does.”

“I was really excited because I know there are so many people who fill it out for things they need, for different classes and core subjects that are pretty important, so it was really nice for music to give students something amazing like this,” Werner said.

During the COVID pandemic, Werner had her students learn bucket drumming last school year because they couldn’t use their regular instruments. She said the buckets helped her students learn rhythms, but they weren’t able to learn about melodies, notes and harmonizing.

“It’s kind of a nice way to fill in all the gaps from previous years without them feeling intimidated about it with their regular instruments,” Werner said.

Werner said she can also teach music theory with the Joia tubes, and there is some physics involved – longer tubes play lower notes while shorter tubes play higher notes.

“It’s both a teaching tool and a true instrument that they can perform on,” Werner said. “My goal is that once they all come in, I can teach them some of the songs at Mass, and they can perform at Mass, too.”

Joia is a Brazilian Portuguese word that means bright, brilliant, clear and shining.

“It’s kind of like what I think of when I think about church – Jesus being that bright, guiding light,” Werner said. “So, to have that link into the classroom means a lot.”

The Catholic Schools Dinner will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee in the Regency Ballroom, 333 W. Kilbourn Ave., Milwaukee. RSVP by Feb. 28 at archmil.regfox.schoolsdinner2022. For more information, contact Paige Rohr at or 414-769-3451.

The dinner chairs are John and Katie Borgen. John Borgen is the president and CEO of Catholic Financial Life, and John, Katie and their children are members of St. Gabriel Parish in Hubertus.

The event will also honor Superintendent for Catholic Schools Dr. Kathleen Cepelka, who recently announced she is retiring after 53 years of service in Catholic education.