Archive for November, 2020


Falmouth High School Making Music

November 30, 2020

Recognizing Veterans Day

Across the state and country it is a tradition in many schools that the music curriculum includes a Veterans Day program. With a pandemic underway these programs have been altered and in many cases eliminated.

CONGRATULATIONS Falmouth High School students and staff for working together to make this happen. Jake Sturtevant and Wendy Northrup, Falmouth High School music educators, made some adaptions this year. The concert band and chorus played on the football field and in the bleachers two selections that have been posted online for all to appreciate.

STAR SPANGLED BANNER (CONCERT BAND)- Veterans Music Performance 2020  

MY COUNTRY TIS OF THE (CONCERT CHOIR)- Veterans Music Performance 2020 

We all know that it takes cooperation and collaboration from many to put together a virtual performance – students, parents, music teachers, administrators and maintenance staff. The reality is that in a normal year the rest of the world most likely would not see/hear this performance. Another silver lining of the pandemic world.

I understand that there will be more virtual performances in their future. You can find those at the Falmouth Music website.


DEADLINE December 1

November 29, 2020

UMaine Scholarship

A message from Phil Edelman. If you have questions please email him at

At UMaine, we currently have a few Visual and Performing Arts scholarships that we can still award for students entering next year. The only requirement for these awardees is that they perform in a large ensemble each semester (they do not need to be a music major).

We do have a hard deadline of December 1 for these scholarships. With that in mind, you can imagine the demand is high. We used to be able to award an unlimited amount of these $12,000 scholarships ($1,500.00 per semester for four years), but we can currently only award 20 of them. I am not 100% sure how many we have left at this point.

If your student is interested in UMaine and performing with our large ensembles (regardless of major), please let me know! If there is anything that our faculty can do to help you as we all navigate this pandemic together, consider us “on call!” My cell is 207-745-0125. Please reach out anytime. 


Celebrating Indigenous Song

November 29, 2020

Global Oneness Project

Global Oneness Project is providing incredible resources which you will find below and linked.

We are part of an old story, and involved in it are migrations of winds, of ocean currents, of seeds, and songs of generations of nations. 

—Joy Harjo, member of the Mvskoke Nation and first Native American Poet of the United States

Songs often reflect cultural values, ethics, and beliefs. In Indigenous cultures, songs are passed down from generation to generation and contain stories that honor ancestors and the living world: rivers, the earth, and animals. Many Indigenous songs do not translate directly into another language, a reflection of how the messages are unique and specific to people and place. 

In partnership with Google Earth’s Voyager story, Celebrating Indigenous Languages, we produced an in-depth discussion guide, Exploring Indigenous Language Vitality, which provides ways for students to explore the linguistic diversity and vitality of Indigenous languages from speakers around the world. Students discover how Indigenous languages are interconnected through identity, cultural heritage, traditional ecological knowledge, and how Indigenous peoples and communities are a vital part of the fabric and story of humanity.

Use the following four question sheets we developed to further explore the Google Earth Voyager story, which contains eighty-four Indigenous peoples who share their favorite phrases and songs. Students are encouraged to make their own observations and connections. 

Margaret Noodin—American poet, linguist, and Anishinaabemowin language teacher—briefly joined us during our recent webinar, “Enhancing Our Understanding: Learning and Teaching About Indigenous Cultures,” with Christine McRae from Native Land Digital. She said that one of the things she learned from her father and paternal grandmother was “the ability to listen to the world singing” around her. And, with that, she said, “there is a desire to sing back to it.” Listen to Noodin sing a beautiful poem, “Chickadee Song” (at the 1:09:55 mark) in her Native language, Anishinaabemowin. There is so much joy in this song.  

If you use any of these resources in your classes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director of the Global Oneness Project would love to hear from you by emailing


Vincent Van Gogh

November 28, 2020

I know that traveling is out of the question at this time but I think it is important to take notice of an amazing exhibit that is traveling to the US to two locations during the next several months. Who knows, you might need to travel to one of these locations for another reason and you could visit.

It’s a multi-sensory Vincent Van Gogh exhibit with almost 3000 moving images projected giving the experience of stepping into a painting. These are “larger than life scenes”. I can’t think of any paintings that would be more appropriate to manipulate with this technology. Along with the images the exhibit is accompanied by a musical landscape running in sync with the moving displays that adds a dream-like state. Infused into the space will be the smell of flowers.

The exhibit started in Paris in 2019 and has visited 50 cities world-wide. It will open in St. Petersburg at the Dali and head to Indianapolis to The Lume the end of April where it will occupy 30,000 sq. ft. of gallery space.

If you’re interested in learning more CLICK HERE.


In Today’s News

November 27, 2020

Music teacher taking action about hunger in Maine

Michael Arell, the director of music for Veazie Community School, is doing something in response to something he heard on the radio during his morning commute. At least 12 percent of Maine households were food insecure in 2019, higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So what is Arell doing? He has self-recorded a Christmas Album and is selling it for $10 on his website. The proceeds will go to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Michael Arell, the director of music for Veazie Community School, plays the piano during a graduate recital in 2019. Arell is pledging to donate profits from his self-recorded Christmas Album to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

READ the entire article from the Bangor Daily News. Thank you Michael!

Arell’s Christmas Album is available for streaming on Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. People can purchase a digital copy of the full album for $10 on his website.


Maine Theater Fund

November 27, 2020

Awards $76,000 in Grants

PORTLAND & ELLSWORTH—The Maine Theater Fund of the Maine Community Foundation has awarded 17 grants that total $76,829 to support professional and community theaters in the production and presentation of live theater.

Grace and Jenny of Bana Mboka lead the audience in Congolese dance during a 2019 performance at Mayo Street Arts. Photo Vanessa Marcoux, MSA


  • Everyman Repertory TheatreRockport, to present the 2021 season of plays that celebrate the arts in Maine and the state’s history
  • Friends of St. Lawrence ChurchPortland, to supplement operating funds for maintenance of the Parish Hall Theater
  • Mayo Street ArtsPortland, to renovate the box office and concessions area to ADA standards
  • Acadia Repertory TheatreSomesville, to replace the theatre’s 40-year-old lighting system: $3,000
  • Arts & Cultural Alliance of Freeport, for the purchase of a sound system for Meetinghouse Arts:  $5,000
  • Chocolate Church Arts CenterBath, to replace ticketing and donation system: $5,000
  • Community Little TheaterAuburn, for the theatrical rights and expenses for the production of AR Gurney’s Love Letters: $4,000
  • Crowbait ClubPortland, for “King of Crows IX,” the yearly production of the winners of the monthly Theatre Deathmatch for 10-minute plays: $2,000
  • Dramatic Repertory CompanyPortland, to fund the 2020-2021 season, including two Maine premier productions: $5,000
  • Everyman Repertory TheatreRockport, to present the 2021 season of plays that celebrate the arts in Maine and the state’s history: $5,000
  • Friends of St. Lawrence ChurchPortland, to supplement operating funds for maintenance of the Parish Hall Theater: $3,000
  • Marsh River TheaterBrooks, for new lights: $5,000
  • Mayo Street ArtsPortland, to renovate the box office and concessions area to ADA standards: $5,000
  • Midcoast Actors StudioBelfast, to provide quality year-round theatre opportunities in the new performance space at the former Waldo County Courthouse    $5,000
  • Ogunquit Playhouse Foundation, to help offset the costs of COVID-19 personal protective equipment and safety upgrades for the 2021 season re-opening: $5,000
  • Portland Lyric Theater, to install an air purification system to improve indoor air quality, preparing for safe opening: $5,000
  • Saco River Theatre, to complete construction of staff/performer restrooms in the basement of the building           : $5,000
  • Terra Moto Inc.South Portland, to produce MAINEUSA: The History of Maine from the Ice Age till Now in July 2021 at Portland Players Theater followed by statewide performances: $5,000
  • Theater at Monmouth, to produce TopDog/UnderDog by Suzan Lori Parks as part of TAM’s (R)evolutionary Season Redux: $5,000
  • Waldo Theatre Inc., to purchase and install essential flame-retardant stage masking curtains and the required stage rigging: $4,829

An anonymous couple who recognized the connection between vibrant communities and support for the arts established the Maine Theater Fund in 2005 to strengthen and sustain theater performance throughout the state. 

Awards are typically between $2,500 and $5,000. The next deadline for applications is September 15, 2021. Guidelines, application and a list of recent grants are available at The 2020 grants are also listed below.

If you have questions please contact Carl Little, Communications Manager, Maine Community Foundation.

Headquartered in Ellsworth, with additional personnel in Portland, Dover-Foxcroft, Rockport, and Mars Hill, the Maine Community Foundation works with donors and other partners to provide strong investments, personalized service, local expertise, and strategic giving to improve the quality of life for all Maine people. To learn more about the foundation, visit


Happpppy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2020

I know this Thanksgiving will be like no others. If you’ll be with family and/or friends that aren’t in your ‘bubble’ please be sure and practice safe distancing, wear a mask and if you’re inside try and leave some windows open. No matter what I hope the sun shines on you and that you can consider what you are grateful for, even in this challenging world-wide pandemic! I hope you take a moment and write down or make art that reflects what your gratefulness!

I’m grateful for the health care workers who are putting their lives on the line each and everyday to do the right thing.

I’m grateful for our elected officials who are making the most difficult decisions determining what to put in place to keep us all safe.

I’m so very grateful for my family and friends who continue to reach out to each other to lift spirits with a kind word and helpful hand.

Most importantly, I’m grateful for the educators who are teaching during this most difficult and challenging time. I know that you’re working around the clock doing the right thing for each learner and the best that you can for your community! Thank you for making a difference in so many students’ lives and in so many communities. 

Thanksgiving is different this year and my appreciation goes deeper than ever for all of the teachers across this globe going above and beyond and remembering that WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING IS ENOUGH AND WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! Be sure and reach out with stories to share and asking for assistance!

My warmest wishes for a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Chelsea Beck for NPR

Morse High School Theater

November 25, 2020

On the lawn performance

Our Town was performed by Morse High School students in October outside on the school lawn. Kevin O’Leary teaches drama teacher, 9th grade English and is responsible for the drama program at Morse High School.

Kevin explained the situation for performing this fall.

We had five platforms, distanced 14 feet apart (think of the black dots on dice). When an actor was on the platform, he/she/they removed the mask. When the actors were on the periphery, they kept their mask on. In a word, all masks stayed on until the actors stepped onto the platform. No actor was ever closer than 14 feet from platform to platform. We allowed only 25 audience members per show. All audience members (4 or 5 per side of the squared acting area) were masked and were at least 14 feet away from the unmasked actor on the platform. It’s a good thing we did the show prior to the new guidelines. We would not be able to do this now. Here’s to better days ahead.

I couldn’t agree more with Kevin – better days ahead! If you have questions for Kevin please email him at


Steel Pans

November 24, 2020

Such a sound they make!!

This blog post is an interview with John Kollman, music teacher in the Hermon School District. John’s passion for steel pans is alive and enthusiastic! His students in Hermon are fortunate to have him as a teacher!

John grew up in Bar Harbor and played drums and sang all through school.  He got my music performance degree from U Maine and music education credits from USM. He went into music because I really have never been interested in anything else. John has have taught at all three schools in Hermon at various times for the past 14 years including General Music k-5, Choral Music 5-12, and Guitar and Steel Pans 9-12. He currently teaches guitar, choir, and five sections of steel pans at Hermon High School. John lives in Bangor with his wife and four children.

How did you get started with steel pans and providing a program at the schools in Hermon?

It all started when my wife and I were attending the Robinson Ballet’s spring show in Bangor in 2005.  The high school-aged steel pan band from Blue Hill “Planet Pan” was providing accompaniment for a few of the dance numbers plus playing a few on their own.  When I heard the band playing this music I felt a musical joy that I had not yet experienced in my life.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  The music was so exciting and new to me.  I was floored.  I instantly knew that I had to be a part of it.  A few weeks later we attended a street-dance featuring “Flash in the Pans”, the community steel band also based in Blue Hill.  We danced all night and had an amazing time.  Later that summer, I contacted the director of “Flash in the Pans”, Carl Chase, and he pointed me toward an adult beginner class happening at George Stevens Academy.  Playing the music was even more fun!  I purchased my own set of pans and joined “Flash in the Pans” the following spring. Playing in a big steel pan band with hundreds of people dancing in front of you is like no other musical experience that I have ever had. And 15 years later I can say, it never gets old!  The power and raw sound of a steel band is unmatched. Needless to say, I really wanted to start a steel pan program where I taught music in Hermon so that these musical feelings could be spread far and wide. So I pitched the idea to our newly formed arts boosters organization and we quickly got working on it and put together a proposal. I’ll give some strategies on how to do this a little later.

Tell the blog readers about the steel pan program you’ve established.

We were lucky enough to start our program in 2009 with 14 sets of pans.  It started as an after-school program for four levels, 3rd and 4th grade, middle school, high school, and adult.  The following year we were able to offer it as a regular high school class for a fine arts credit.  Since then we have been able to add instruments (all from after-school lesson fees and gig donations) and we can accommodate 25 players.  The first high school class started with one class of eight players and has since grown to five sections with around 125 students involved each year.  The after-school programs continue to thrive as well (temporarily on-hold for obvious reasons).  Our community band, PanStorm, plays parades, festivals and dances throughout the greater Bangor area.

What are the benefits of providing the program?

       Steel pan music is the only form of music that I have ever seen small children, teenagers (always a hard group to please), and adults of every age dancing together and having a wonderful time. The music seems to speak to everyone from all kinds of different backgrounds. Another key element is the accessible nature of the instruments. You can take a group of people that have never played an instrument or sang in a choir before and have them playing something that sounds pretty good in about an hour. People have a good time and gain confidence quickly. Especially at the high school level, I have seen lots of students who never got involved in the traditional ensembles (which I also love, don’t get me wrong) having a lot of success in a pan ensemble. On the flip side of that, I have been able to get students into my chamber choir from the pan program who normally would have never thought of it before.  Steel pans reach some of the students who were not reached by the traditional paths which equals more kids involved in music.

John Kollman on the left in this photo next to his son

Describe a moment or opportunity when the value of the program was made clear.

Early on in the program, our elementary groups performed at the regular elementary school concert.  Afterwards, I was approached by an audience member who said he was amazed that students that young could actually play music at such a high level.  He was bracing himself beforehand and then couldn’t believe how good they sounded. The value of the program is clear when you look on the faces of the players and the audience members and see pure joy.

Are there connections to be made beyond the school for students?

       A lot of students that started playing in school are now in the community band playing at festivals and parades. Pans also have a rich history coming from the island of Trinidad deep in the Caribbean that can be explored. Steel pan bands are emerging all over the world. It is a fast-growing art form.

What are your suggestions for others who are considering starting a program?

First I would say, you definitely should!  What we did in Hermon was:             

  1. Have a steel band perform for the school, a concert and a workshop (nowadays, a video presentation might be the only option).             
  2. Circulate a petition and have students who might be interested in playing sign it (with no firm commitment, you get a lot of signatures).             
  3. Put together a proposal using video and signatures.  I pitched it as financially self-supporting due to after school lesson fees and gig donations after the initial cost (and this has turned out to be very true).

What are the costs to start a program?

The initial cost can be a little daunting because all pans are hand-made by a highly skilled craftsperson and the cost reflects that.  You can find pans for $800 to $1500 depending on the kind and quality.  You can start with just a few sets and get it rolling that way.  People love to play them and love the sound.  They sell themselves if you can set it up right.  If anyone is interested in starting a program and needs help or ideas, please feel free to email John Kollman at  Below is a video of the PanStorm community steel band performing in the July 4th parade, 2019.    


Thanksgiving Takeaway

November 23, 2020

Food for thought

Susannah Remillard is a language arts teacher in Cape Cod where she has been working to “present a balanced Thanksgiving story to students.” She has been building her knowledge by participating in professional development online sessions being offered by the National Museum of the American Indian, Shelburne Farms and the Tarrant Institute at the University of Vermont. The archived webinar is available at THIS LINK.

Recently she wrote Thanksgiving Takeaway for the Atlantic Black Box Project. These are her sharing points taken directly from Susannah’s writing:

  • Scrub the word tribe. So many good things happen when you focus on the indigenous groups that live in your particular area and use their names. Adopt words like peoples and communities. Drop Squanto for Tisquantum and use Ousamequin instead of Massasoit. These may seem like small switches, but the thinking behind them, and the thinking you ask students to do because you have made these priorities, can teach them much about honor and respect.
  • Release the primary sources into the classroom. Students need the skills we teach with primary sources, the skills of discernment and comparative analysis, even though these documents can be challenging to analyze. Present them with voiceovers. How is your colonial English accent? It doesn’t really matter. When students examine sources from a time period, they feel that they are solving the puzzles of the past, so they often come to realizations in authentic and deeply felt ways. Give them the time and space to do this work.
  • Talk about the difference between inaccurate and inappropriate. Talk about how an inaccuracy can start a conversation, but inappropriateness can often shut one down. Bring in the mascot debate, even when it’s hard to talk about or you can’t find an easy counter argument for every justification. Use examples with white people. Talk about pain. These are important conversations that bring up hard historical truths that need unpacking today. You are in a position to do this.
  • Finally, just keep doing the work. It took years for our educational system to look like it does today. It’s not a bad system, but we know how to break through some of the most damaging remnants of our colonial past, as long as we keep doing the work.

What Susannah says makes good sense and reminds me of the work my colleagues and I did when we established a Holocaust unit when we realized that the number of survivors of the Holocaust were dwindling. Primary sources and resources on the topic are plentiful today. A fair and comprehensive curriculum honoring and recognizing truth is at the foundation of education that we must all be committed to and strive for in all subjects – for the learners we presently teach and the ones not born yet.

Susannah teaches language arts at Cape Cod Lighthouse Public Charter School. She holds degrees from Colby College and the University of South Carolina and is a National Geographic Certified Educator, an NEH Summer Scholar, and a lifelong Cape Codder.

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