Sacred Heart School Awarded Grant from Cooney Family Foundation to Establish the Barbara Lamy Cooney Piano Lab

Continuing its advancements in music arts and education, Sacred Heart School has initiated the development of the Barbara Lamy Cooney Piano Lab, made possible by a grant from the Cooney Family Foundation.

The piano lab, set for completion before the upcoming school year, will feature 17 digital pianos, each equipped with speakers, bench seating, and interactive headphones. Instructions will be led by Mr. Darrin Hartman, SHS music director, who plans to integrate lessons into the K-12 music curriculum. 

“Studies show that music and the arts strengthen cognitive learning,” said Hartman. “The addition of the piano lab presents the arts to our scholars through a different and novel approach.”

Hartman added that learning the basics of the piano helps in the progression of all other forms of music, such as vocals and band. While a piano lab has been a dream of his for several years, Hartman says its importance couldn’t be more timely and relevant given recent health and safety recommendations concerning singing and face coverings. 

“We can assure our scholars another avenue to enjoy music in the middle of a pandemic thanks to the generosity of the Cooney Family Foundation,” said Hartman. 

The Cooney Family Foundation was established in 2016 by Jim and Barbara Cooney, who are longtime leaders in the Sedalia community, lifelong members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, and graduates of Sacred Heart School — Jim in 1946 and Barbara in 1954. The mission of the Cooney Family Foundation is to support and promote quality education, arts, and community programming. Reflecting on the Cooney family’s Catholic faith and passion for lifelong learning and the arts, special consideration is given to charitable and educational organizations that help individuals become the best versions of themselves.

“I attended Sacred Heart School from the beginning (grade 1-12),” said Jim. Those years enabled me to receive excellent classic education and form strong spiritual values. I wouldn’t trade those opportunities. Catholic school was a strong formation for me.” 

Jim said he’s excited to bring to life a program that can be used by scholars throughout all grades. The piano lab is named in honor of Barbara, a champion for arts education in the community, who passed away in 2019. 

“Giving back to Sacred Heart is important to Barbara and me,” said Jim. “She would be happy.” 

“Jim and Barbara are the examples of stewards we strive to be: giving of their own gifts and talents so that others may grow in the gifts and talents the Lord has given to them,” said Fr. Joe Corel, pastor, St. Vincent De Paul. “God has given many the gift of music. Now, we can continue to foster those gifts thanks to the gift of the piano lab from the Cooneys. We are most grateful.”

By establishing the Cooney Endowment for the Arts, Barbara helped fund multiple art enrichment projects at Sacred Heart School, including the mural of art tiles featured on the first floor of the school, performance risers, and the Visiting Author program.  She and Jim were among the first to champion church development campaigns and the Sacred Heart Foundation Annual Fund Drive and other programs that embraced the concept of working together to build a legacy that benefits future generations.

“Grandpa Jim is very happy to be able to make this meaningful gift, and Barbara would undoubtedly be delighted,” said Jenny Rinella, vice-president of the Cooney Family Foundation. “I spent many hours playing the piano in their West Broadway home, and she joyfully shared her old sheet music and encouraged me. It’s great to think that their generosity will help a new generation to benefit from enhanced music education and opportunities to develop and share their talents in this way.”

Dr. Mark Register, SHS president, said that The Barbara Lamy Cooney Piano Lab is another in a long line of gifts from the Cooneys that has immeasurably enhanced the product Sacred Heart offers its school families.  “Sacred Heart School treasures its partnership with the Cooney Family,” said Dr. Register. “Mrs. Cooney and her legacy inspires young people to find their creative voice. We are humble and grateful.”