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School Song Unveiled

March 30, 2016

CRMS

Music educator Allysa Anderson and musician Joani Mitchell

Music educator Allysa Anderson and musician
Joani Mitchell

Camden Rockport Middle School premiered their very own newly commissioned school song recently in an assembly with the student body and teachers participating proudly.

The song is entitled “Sail On” and has been created through a collaboration of staff, student, and community input and commissioned by a leading choral arranger/composer of middle school and high school music, Roger Emerson. During the ceremony  they listened to a video tape of a message from Roger and congratulated the students for their contributions to the song creation.

This project was funded through a Youth Arts grant that began last spring and has continued into this school year.

It was great seeing Allysa Anderson, CRMS general and choral music teacher (and Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader) at the premiere! You can read the description from idea to fruition, in Allysa’s own words below the video. Marvelous work, (and play) Allysa!

Allysa’s personal statement

For years I have dreamt about Camden-Rockport Middle School attaining a school song. In my previous school employment, I had written one but this school was different.  I wanted it to be “awesome” and needed to tap into some “awesomeness” to make it happen right.  One day I was surfing the web and decided to send a composer (whose arrangements work really well in the choral groups at our school), Roger Emerson, a message, inquiring if he would be interested in writing a school song for us. Pleasantly to my surprise he responded that he had a window of time in the near future he would be able to serve us. I immediately began seeking grant money, receiving the principal’s approval, and getting the ball rolling with data collection.

It was important that the song be all-inclusive because a sense of community was driving the project. Using a writing prompt, we asked students, staff, and parents “what was important to them about our school and the place in which we live?”  Teachers were collaborative, flexible, and extremely supportive of this effort from the start. We worked with the composer Roger Emerson on the lyrics to get exactly what we were looking for, including adding a verse of our own. I had a vision of the song format, incorporating certain musical aspects including a bridge section that we could use in assemblies where each grade level would chant a part specific to its class. Although Roger did not write this part, we were able to do it on site; and he agreed to add it to our copy of the music. It was also critical to me that the song be written with the notion of adding instrumental band components in the future. Therefore, the key and the meter are reflective of this in the piece.

One of the highlights of my professional career was holding two Staff “classes” on workshop days where our teachers, ed techs, and custodians came to my music room to learn the school song. I pretended they were “middle schoolers” (mostly because I was nervous to stand in front of 40+ peers!) and taught them the song. It was a great community builder for our staff;  and, on a side note, I believe it led organically to advocacy for music within our school.

Realizing the massive scale of teaching nearly 400 students outside of the regular routine this new song in the midst of a few other major projects, including a school musical, I sought out the help of a colleague, Ian McKenzie. Over the course of three weeks and in a variety of creative places within the schedule, the two of us taught the song to the student body. As tech coordinator, he put together a video tutorial leading up to the all school assembly.

On a Friday in February (of our already yearly-programmed school Spirit Week), the entire school population came together in the gym to culminate the project and premier the song.  Musically speaking, it wasn’t perfect; but it was perfect in the sense that it was fun and brought everyone together on the same downbeat with the same positive message about learning, school, and life.

Music creates togetherness and just simply makes you “feel good”. I believe that this project did just that and hope that it will for years to come. I am blessed to work in such a supportive school and to have had this opportunity in some small way to impact positively a community through music. I dream it can be a reality for every school and every music teacher.

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