As community colleges across the state slash funding for music programs, a local foundation is raising money to expand musical education at the Santa Rosa Junior College Petaluma campus.

The Friends of the Petaluma Campus Trust's new fundraising effort seeks to create an endowment to build on the musical resources already on campus.

The Petaluma campus renovation in 2009 included an upsized Carole L. Ellis Auditorium that is now a 257-seat performing arts space. In 2011, the Friends trust gifted the campus a $67,000 Steinway concert grand piano.

The next phase is an endowment to maintain the piano, attract performances and raise the level of music instruction for Petaluma campus students, according to Jane Saldana-Talley, vice president of the Petaluma campus.

"Now that we've created these conditions, we are starting to launch the possibilities," she said. "The endowment allows us to provide quality music programs in our community."

As part of the fundraising campaign, called 88 Keys for the number of keys on a piano, donors can name a key on the Steinway piano for $1,000, said Kate McClintock, Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation, which is an umbrella for the Friends trust. Sponsors' names will be listed on a plaque in Ellis Auditorium.

"We wanted to give more community members an opportunity to participate in this campaign," she said. "We're always looking for donations for programs that will help students."

Funding for California community colleges has plunged in recent years, and arts and music programs have suffered the most. Nearly 20 percent of the arts and music classes at California community colleges have been cut since 2008, according to a recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California. Community colleges are increasingly looking for private donations for everything from arts and music to athletics.

"If you don't have the support from the state, it is very important that you go to the community for funding," said Rudolf Budginas, coordinator of piano and digital audio at SRJC.

Budginas, a renowned concert pianist who performed a concert to raise money for the endowment on April 19 at Ellis Auditorium, said that he would like to see more music instruction at the Petaluma campus. Next fall, Petaluma will start offering a music theory class, a core requirement for music majors, he said.

"This will be the first step in bringing a music program to Petaluma," he said.

Right now, the Petaluma campus only offers two music classes, Intro to World Music and Jazz Appreciation, both electives. But students say they would take more music classes if they were available.

"More music classes would be good," Jordan Demartino, 19, a Liberal Studies major from Novato, said after her World Music class. "Once you find a subject that you like a lot, you want to take more classes."

Besides broadening the music program, the Friends of the Petaluma Campus Trust also hopes to attract more top-level concert performers to Ellis Auditorium. Last month Rebeca Mauleon and her Cuban collective put on an Afro-Cuban jazz concert at the venue, and blues and soul pianist Joshua Q. Paxton has played at Ellis Auditorium.

"Slowly but surely, we are expanding what we are able to do here," Saldana-Talley said. "We are able to connect with what they are doing at the (Sonoma State) Green Music Center. We are able to connect with the Santa Rosa Symphony. A dream of mine would be to connect with young students in the community who are taking piano lessons."

(Contact Matt Brown at argus@arguscourier.com)