Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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Joyful Music

August 2, 2022

South African school marimba band – Vivaldi

The joy on the students faces and the energy put forth, warmed my heart. I watched this several times, I hope you enjoy!

If for some reason you don’t see the video below, please click “Like” which will allow the video to pop up.

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Music Educator Rebecca Edmondson

July 19, 2022

Hancock County Teacher of the Year

Please join me in congratulating Music Educator Rebecca Edmondson who is the 2022 Hancock County Teacher of the Year. Rebecca teaches at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor. Next week, Rebecca will join her colleagues, who along with her, have been named Semi-Finalist for the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year. All 8 Semi-Finalists will be providing a presentation which is the next step in the process. Below is Rebecca’s story that will provide her history and her journey to this point in her life. The writing is her own, I’m sure you’ll hear Rebecca’s voice. Her commitment to education, her students, and the community of Bar Harbor is commendable!

CONGRATULATIONS Rebecca Edmondson

Tell us your story, what led you to this moment Rebecca?

Teaching was a way of life in my home. My grandmother, mother, and numerous cousins were teachers or administrators. They shared stories that provided warm and delightful chatter at the supper table. It got my attention! At that point, I began dreaming of becoming a teacher.

It was my mother who impacted my decision on becoming a music teacher. She taught music for twenty-eight years and we always had instruments laying around our home just waiting to be played. 

Edmondson piping at the Town Pier in Bar Harbor to welcome the Queen Elizabeth II on her maiden voyage.

During my high school years, I wanted a taste of teaching so I gave private music lessons to beginners. That was it! I knew that I wanted to continue to have a positive impact on young learners. From then on, I devote my life to teaching. Teaching comes naturally. Music is my life. Teaching music is my forte! 

My music education began at age five with learning the piano because I wanted to be just like my older sister so I begged my mother for lessons! Mrs. Frisk was our piano teacher and prepared us both for college auditions. She had even taught my mother when she was young! In her younger years, she played for silent films and I thought that was really cool.  

Edmondson at piano for community production of “Clue,” literally playing the part of Professor Plum, the murderer at the piano, at The Grand Theater in Ellsworth.

In fifth grade, I discovered the oboe and loved it! A few years later, I began private lessons from Dr. Dicicco at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I always studied under the best instructors and was classically trained. During my teen years, folk music and instruments captured my heart and I was compelled to play the Great Highland Bagpipes! I spent summers on the shores of the St.Lawrence Seaway with a hundred other pipers, receiving instruction from world class pipers Seumas MacNeil, Angus MacLellan, and Iain MacFadyen from Scotland. These inspiring teachers will always have a special place in my heart.

During my high school years, on Saturdays, I traveled over the mountain to play oboe in the Johnstown Youth Symphony and on Sundays I ventured into the big city to pipe in the Pittsburgh Scots Pipe Band. It was the best of both worlds – classical and folk!

Several of Rebecca’s Conners Conners Elementary School violin students

My formal education includes earning my Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). I expanded my education and earned my Elementary Education Certification from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and from there, I was placed as a program Reading Specialist Graduate Assistant back at IUP when suddenly I received a call for a music teaching interview and was hired on the spot. So many opportunities presented themselves in that year and shortly after my teaching career began, I married Bill and in the next few years our children were born. Life was good!

Then one day, Bill said that it was time to make the move to Maine that he had been dreaming of for years. I cried. I had a beautiful home, loving children, and my dream job. I did not want to move, especially 800 miles away, however, I put on a happy face and packed us up. Upon moving to Maine my current teaching position became available and we built our home on the beautiful Mount Desert Island! I have been enjoying a wonderful life near Acadia National Park and a successful teaching career at the Conners Emerson School since 1990! Life was good again. 

Fifth grade dulcimers created by students

My education continued, earning my Master of Music in Music Education degree from the University of Maine at Orono. I continue to enjoy learning new music and instruments. Harp and accordion are my newest additions! Teaching and music has created opportunities to bond friendships that endure to this day and I love to perform for community events. It brings a smile to my face when I fondly remember my Dad saying, “With all of those classical lessons that I drove you to, what do you prefer? Bagpipes and tin whistle!”

I truly feel that every facet of my teaching and life experiences with music in the community has pointed me in the direction of becoming the 2022 Hancock County Teacher of the Year. Thirty five years of teaching has given me ample time to live my dreams and achieve my goals.

Conners Emerson Show Choir

What is your present teaching assignment – how long have you been there?

My husband Bill, our children Bethany and Ethan, and I moved to Bar Harbor in 1989. We found a piece of wooded land overlooking Echo Lake and built our home. I took a year to earn my Maine Teaching Certificate and be home with my children. The following year, my current music position became available! It was meant to be! I have enjoyed inspiring thousands of children and involving their parents since 1990! 

At Conners Emerson School (CES), I teach K-6 general music classes, consisting of programs that I have initiated; second grade class violin, third grade tin whistle and xylophone, fourth grade ukuleles and acting to the classics, fifth grade dulcimer constructing and playing, sixth grade keyboard class, third through eighth grade string lessons and two orchestras. My fiddle group, the Swallowtail Fiddlers, provides a creative and traditional approach to learning tunes and this group serves as musical ambassadors from CES providing community service and delighting audiences of all ages. Every class sings and dances as well and the icing on the cake is the show choir where it all comes together! 

Image of an original song that Rebecca composed for my students

What do you love about teaching? What are your biggest challenges?

One of the most rewarding experiences that a teacher can experience is the creation of a new program. A quarter note is always a quarter note, however, there are so many different songs to sing and tunes to play that every year, even though the curriculum remains the same, I have the flexibility in choosing new music that the students and I are interested in and form new ensembles. I rarely have repeated music during my past 35 years of teaching. Also, if I am unable to find just the right music for my students, I compose something for them! It makes them feel so special.

Schools have locked their doors to community connections for the past two years due to COVID. My advocacy is building community; bringing the community into the school for inspiration and taking our school students into the community to serve. This generational aspect in reciprocity creates a circle of mentoring, which renews with every passing generation for my school and community. Parents of the primary grade students have not set foot inside our schools. Now is the time to reconnect and rebuild our school and community collaborations to inspire our young people to become responsible future leaders and policy makers! 

2018 Hancock County Teacher of the Year Jennifer Farnham with a student clarinetist, demonstrating a circle of mentoring. They first performed together in my community orchestra that I founded, TEMPO: The Eastern Maine Pops Orchestra, and continue to play alongside each other in the Bangor Band!
Photo that appeared in a YWCA calendar, empowering community women

Tell the blog readers about the Teacher of the Year process, what’s it been like?

The Teacher of the Year process has been one of reflection, self evaluation, and networking. I have enjoyed reflecting on my past accomplishments when writing the essays. Self evaluation gives me pause to fondly recall community music and performance events that I had forgotten about because my mind is always looking towards the next thing! The networking with my county cohort, Maine TOTY cohort, and Educate Maine gives a teacher a big picture of what we as TOTY can do to, well, educate Maine!  

Those involved in Educate Maine have prepared the TOTY candidates every step of the way for success. The Professional Development that I have participated in, through TOTY, has been very beneficial, educational, and fun. Because of it, I have grown as a teacher and person. 

 Sponsor Lee Auto reminded Rebecca of the time when her Swallowtail Fiddlers performed at the Seal Cove Auto Museum

The 2022 County Teachers of the Year is a strong cohort and it is an honor to be a part of it. Once a TOTY, always a TOTY so the friendships formed within this group are sure to last for years to come. The sponsors, UNUM and Lee Auto, to name two major contributors, have made it possible for the Teacher of the Year cohort to be treated as professionals so that travel to state-wide events is a luxury in that expenses are covered. I feel supported and appreciated.

Whose classroom have you visited that really impressed you and what were the pieces that stand out most to you? What did you learn from that experience?

Oh my! There are so many to choose from and I do not want to leave anyone out! 

During these COVID times, extra duties have been added to my schedule, which gave me insight into classrooms that I would not have normally walked into. Spending time in the K-8 classrooms during snack time, lunch, and indoor recess, have given me the gift of spending extra time with students in their homeroom in a relaxed atmosphere. Student interactions in their own environment during non-instructional time, gave me a glimpse of their social interactions.

 Composer project, 4th grade project at the Conners Emerson School. The students learn about a different composer each year, Rebecca draws it and cuts it apart, deals out the “puzzle pieces,” students color, assemble, and voila, masterpiece legacies!

Each physical classroom that I was assigned to, was set up differently, taking on the persona of the classroom teacher. One was decorated with elephants. The color blue was the predominance of another classroom. Yet another displayed items accrued on an overseas trip. Some classrooms were calm while others caused overstimulation, in my opinion. 

One thing that all the classrooms had in common was the display of student work. Whether it be self-portraits, a research project, or the signing of a classroom contract, every child was represented in some way in the classrooms. I work with incredible teachers at Conners Emerson and each brings a personal touch to their classroom to create a positive, safe, and inspirational cultural community. 

There are 32 composers hanging in Rebecca’s music room – one for each year that she has taught at CES. They are a good conversation starter among students plus alumni who return like to point out which composer that they helped create

You’ve had professional development in ‘communicating with the press’ since you’ve been selected as the Hancock County Teacher of the Year. What did you learn that is good advice for all teachers in communicating about the importance of your role as a teacher?

Communicating with the press is much different than communicating with your students. Teachers present new skills and techniques to students in numerous ways to accommodate various learning styles. With media, your communication needs to be clear, concise and to the point. Do not babble. 

Reporters love to let you talk on and on to catch you on something. Less is more. Keep it short. Create a one sentence, eight second sound bite from a paragraph to effectively make your point. If the interviewer shifts and has an underlying agenda, say, “That is an interesting question but it is not why I am here. Let me share my classroom experience with you” then blow your own horn.

Edmondson’s Swallowtail Fiddlers in 2009 performing in Agamont Park on the CBS Early Show

You have heard the saying, “Music speaks where words fail.” That is my motto! My Swallowtail Fiddlers spoke through toe-tapping jigs, reels, and strathspeys while performing on the CBS Early Show and the Channel 5 Morning News and I never spoke a word! 

I collaborated with first grade teacher, MaryAnne Young, to create the Maine Musical, Plant Kindness and Gather Love, about nature and Maine history. It makes a musical statement with eleven educational and entertaining songs, enhanced by movement, dance, script, and classroom activities that encourage students to be stewards of the earth. The synopsis features fourteen characters named for the wild flowers of Acadia National Park. All students in grades K-4 performed Plant Kindness and Gather Love at a public performance at The Criterion in Bar Harbor. The timing was perfect, for Plant Kindness and Gather Love became a celebration of the Centennial of Acadia National Park and the Bicentennial of Maine!

Edmondson and Young collaborated to create Maine musical, Plant Kindness and Gather Love. Acadia National Park donated Ranger hats for our young thespians and parent volunteers made flower decorations for the hats representing the wildflowers of Acadia National Park

What advice do you have for new teachers? 

Be flexible, go with the flow, and have a sense of humor. Young students are the source of an endless supply of optimism. Open your mind, hand, and heart and seek resources and opportunities beyond the classroom walls for real life learning experiences. Be a facilitator to spur your students’ imaginations. Expose your students to a wealth of stuff to guide them to discover their talents, to create their own voice, and have fun. Just like my classical training with a love for folk music I have networked with incredible musicians, both professional and recreational. I have the pleasure of expressing myself on both oboe and bagpipes, reaching very different audiences. 

Edmondson with two members from the Dirty Dozen band at their performance at the MENC National Convention in Salt Lake City. Edmondson advocated for school strings programs on a panel of twelve music teachers when she was designated as one of twelve in the country for having a Model Music Program.

Be diligent in continually making connections and build relationships between students and the community to spark an interest with your students. Be a good listener to what your students need and to what your community wants. There is a whole new world out there that is constantly changing. Embrace your journey with your students. You never know where it may lead for your students and you! Anything is possible.

Edmondson having fun being a pirate at Fort Knox. Her students enjoyed her antics.
The best of both worlds of, classical and folk, met on stage at The Grand Theater in Ellsworth. Guest Scottish National Fiddle Champion Sean Heely and Edmondson on the great Highland Bagpipes perform with her community orchestra, TEMPO, while Ethan Edmondson conducts Tributum for Celtic Pipes by Nan Avant, Composed for the Celebrate the World Music! Concert in 2013.
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Music Teacher Extraordinaire Retiring

June 21, 2022

Congratulations, Mrs. Murphy and thank you!

I love helping students find their voices.

Kim Murphy has been teaching music for the last 34 years and is retiring this month. She’s one of those teachers who I thought would never retire since she has a ton of energy and is totally engaged in every aspect of teaching. She has high expectations for herself and her students. Kim always has a smile on her face and her laughter is contagious! I’m certain that she will be missed! (You can learn something about Kim’s humor by the most of the photos below and the embedded links, be sure and click on the center capitalized titles to see the videos).

Kim started teaching grades 6-12 Choral and General Music at Oak Hill High School, Sabattus, Litchfield and Wales. Shortly afterward the position changed and she taught Band and Chorus, grades 9-12 at Oak Hill High School. She took a sabbatical in 1996-97 and then moved to Lincolnville. For the last 25 years she has taught at the high school, Camden-Rockport High School for 3 years and when the new high school opened, Camden Hills Regional High School (CHRHS), she has taught there. Earlier in her music career she worked as a music therapist in Peapack, NJ and Bethlehem, PA.

Kim was a double major and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and Music Therapy. She is a Nationally Board Certified teacher.

What has been your favorite part of teaching?                                                                                                                       

  • I love helping students find their voices. Find their self-confidence through singing. I love it when someone has a solo – and other people never realized what a beautiful voice that person has.  And then there is just the self-confidence in getting up and singing before a large crowd – whether in a small group or a large group. There are life lessons – the teamwork is necessary. 
  • I love music festivals – where students from different schools come together to create works of beauty. It’s SO different from sports – where someone is always the winner and someone is always the loser. With music festivals – the competition has already happened (through auditions) and the coming together to create a concert in 2 – 3 days is a wonderful way to build connections.
  • And then of course – I love musicals!

Tell the readers about a moment in your teaching career that has been unforgettable? 

  • Well – there are many.  But a recent one is…. During the 2020-21 school year, I had the FIRST tent up!  And my tent was the FIRST to blow away! UNDER THE TENT!
And there she blows!

What changes have you experienced during your teaching career that have been positive and/or negative?

  • I think it’s great that kids can take so many AP courses – and get college credit. Yet this (adding of AP classes to schedules) has really hurt music programs in that the schedule and time for Band and Chorus is getting squeezed out. And also – is it healthy for a student to have so many AP classes?
  • In a positive manner, I think students are more assertive; they self-advocate for what they need in education; education is now –  less “top down” instruction and more collaboration.

YESTERDAY!

What do you think are three keys to ANY successful music ed program? 

  • Know your students, be genuine in your care for them
  • Flexibility and creativity – learn to work with schedule changes, or things that happen that throw your carefully written plans out the window
  • Plan, plan, plan 
  • And (a 4th!) have a sense of humor!

What are you most proud of in your career?

When I was hired at CRHS I said that my personal 10 yr goal was to have the strongest choral program in the State of Maine. We are lucky – we have fantastic community support. I think – with the numbers of students that have been accepted to District III, All State, All Eastern and National festivals over the years – I think that it has been one of the strongest choral programs in the State. Unfortunately – right now – due to Covid and other challenges – the Chorus program is not as strong (in numbers) and that breaks my heart. You have to have the numbers.

Who influenced your work as a teacher or perhaps inspired you?

Charlie Seymour and Steve Moro

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Teaching is the hardest and best profession. There are days when you will want to cash in your chips early – don’t! Hold on. Your students learn more from your daily attitude and mindset than you realize. As a teacher – you teach a subject area – but it’s the character that you bring into the classroom that has the lasting educational benefit.

IT’S TIME TO SING!

How much of what you do is learned skills and how much is innate?

Wow – that’s an interesting question. I come from a family of teachers – so I think that was how we grew up. So – teaching comes naturally. I was going to be either an English or Math teacher. Those subjects come easily to me (well….not Math anymore – ha ha). But Music didn’t come easily. I had to work at it. I had to make it look easy. But – because I had to work at my music skills so hard, that made me a better teacher – because I could understand why kids were struggling, and I could break it down into smaller chunks for them to understand.

I’VE GOT MY OWN TENT!

What does retirement look like for you?

Exciting and Terrifying.  I have an Air BNB business at my house, which I LOVE to do – and hope to be able to grow that – especially in the shoulder seasons (when I would have been at school). I’m connecting with community theater and music groups – because that is my passion. I do a lot of work with my church – and hope to be able to volunteer more with places like AIO food pantry (food and energy assistance for citizens of Knox county) or other social programs. And finally – I will fly to CA (whenever I damn well please) to see my son!

If you were given $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would create a theater program for kids – especially kids who struggle in life.  

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back, do you have any regrets?

I hope not!  You have to live in the moment and enjoy each beautiful step.

The concert photos in this blog post were taken by Marti Stone Photography.

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Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership

June 20, 2022

Teaching Artists and Educators Invited!

This is a great opportunity to become part of a dynamic network of arts educators across the state of Maine. This year-long experience begins with a 3-day Summer Institute, held at a beautiful outdoor setting sure to jumpstart your leadership journey.

August 1-3, 2022. APPLICATION deadline June 23. There is no cost.

If you’re selected your role begins with the 3-day institute at Pilgrim Lodge, August 1-3.

MAEPL would love to build community with educators and teaching artists who know or have someone interested in arts integration. If you have someone in your building or your community or have partnered with someone in the past please have them attend this summer with you!

MAEPL recently moved from the Maine Arts Commission and is now a program of the Maine Department of Education.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

QUESTIONS? Contact Iva Damon, Program Team Lead: MAEPLLeadership@gmail.com or ‪(802) 695-0198‬

August 1-3, 2022. APPLICATION deadline June 23. There is no cost.

SUMMER INSTITUTE LOCATION
Pilgrim Lodge is a camp run by the United Church of Christ of Maine on Lake Cobbosseecontee in West Gardiner, ME. This beautiful venue has cabins with electricity and plumbing, large indoor and outdoor meeting spaces, modern dining facilities, wifi in main buildings, good general cell reception, and recreation options including swimming, human-powered boating, and trails. 

PURPOSE 

The Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership (MAEPL) is committed to developing and promoting high quality arts education for all. MAEPL operates on the premise of “teachers teaching teachers.” All of our design teams, institutes, and professional development opportunities offer/encourage collaboration.

This We Believe’ Statements outline our foundational beliefs and practices.  

COMMUNITY 

  • Teacher Leaders: Maine Visual or Performing Arts Educators with a professional teaching certificate who teach an Arts discipline in a public or private school.  
  • Teaching Artist Leaders:  Professional Teaching Artists in Maine with demonstrated experience collaborating within educational or civic environments to design and lead student-centered, values-driven residencies drawn from mastery of their artistic discipline.    

TRAININGS, COLLABORATION, & WORK  

MAEPL is built on an institute model, by application. There is a Summer Institute for Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. Returning community members are encouraged to participate. 

At the Summer Institute new Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders will learn foundational practices in instructional design and leadership skills. Participants will take part in a variety of workshops focused on emerging needs in Arts Education professional development.  

Collaboration, networking, and the sharing of resources are an expectation as a member of the MAEPL community. During the Institute participants will develop an individualized growth plan that will be shared with others for feedback and suggestions.  

Throughout the school year, participants will continue to share how their individualized growth plan is developed and implemented, and they will have the opportunity to share at a Critical Friends Day, and with a thought partner. At the Winter Retreat participants review and reflect on the work done, and allow for time to get feedback to plan for the next Summer Institute.  

TEACHER LEADER/TEACHING ARTIST LEADER ANNUAL EXPECTATIONS

  • Attend Summer Institute 
  • Work with a thought partner 
  • Develop a individualized growth plan 
  • Share the outcomes of your individual growth plan within the MAEPL community and beyond (i.e. workshop, resource, video, article, etc.) 
  • Share feedback and information about MAEPL through teacher leader stories and as part of your outcomes of your personal growth plan 
  • Collaborate, network, and share resources 
  • Participate in Critical Friend Day 
  • Attend Winter Retreat

August 1-3, 2022. APPLICATION deadline June 23. There is no cost.

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2022 Maine County Teachers of the Year

June 12, 2022

Congratulations!

The 2022 County Teachers of the Year were announced recently in Augusta at the State House. I love that there are so many teachers each year nominated who represent all that is ‘right’ with education. Each of us in the profession, no matter what our role is, should feel the pride!

I’m especially excited this year that there are two performing arts teachers; representing Hancock County is Rebecca Edmondson who teaches music at Conners-Emerson School, Bar Harbor and representing Somerset County is Debra Susi who teaches theatre at Central Institute, Pittsfield.

Hundreds of teachers across Maine are nominated by a member of their school community. The application process is rigorous, not a lightly designed ordeal, with a teacher selected from each county by a panel of educators and other individuals who are members of each county.

Maine County Teachers of the Year serve as ambassadors for teachers, students, and quality education state-wide throughout the year. The Maine County Teachers of the Year are available to make presentations to local and regional organizations. Throughout the summer, they will continue to participate in an intensive selection process. In the fall one of these sixteen teachers will be named the 2023 Maine State Teacher of the Year.

I’m sure the blog readers join me in congratulating all of the county teachers of the year, especially Rebecca and Debra!

The Maine Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Program is administered through a collaborative partnership with Educate Maine. To learn more about the Teacher of the Year Program visit: https://www.mainetoy.org/.

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Spring Choral Concert

May 12, 2022

Camden Hills Regional High School

The Camden Hills Regional HS Chorale, Chamber Singers and Treble Choir will present their Spring Choral Concert on Tuesday, May 17th at 7:00 PM in the Strom auditorium. The ensembles, directed by Kimberly Murphy and accompanied by Matthew Mainster will perform a variety of selections, featuring many soloists and guest artists.

Kim Murphy

Of special note will be BSO percussionist Nancy Rowe accompanying the Treble Choir on xylophone in their performance of Mark Patterson’s “Edges of the Night” – a song that highlights the plight of refugees. Ms. Rowe will also play the djembe to accompany two selections by the Chorale and Chamber Singers. A guest string quartet: Sarah Glenn (violin), Heidi Karod (violin), Linda Vaillancourt (viola) and April Reed-Cox (cello) will accompany the Chamber Singers’ performance of “Deep Peace” written by Elaine Hagenberg and Ola Gjeilo’s “The Ground.” Both selections incorporate the theme of peace, with Ola Gjeilo’s composition ending with the lyrics “Dona Nobis Pacem” (grant us peace).

Nancy Rowe

Additional themes concurrent in many of the selections are that of youth, and hope through music. Young singers in grades 3 – 8 will join the high school Chorale in a stirring rendition of “Rise Up” – a song made popular by Andra Day.  The performance will feature many soloists including Sara Ackley, Alyssa Lewis, Lenigha White, Noelle Delano and young singers Rowan McWilliams and Nathan Gomez. The string quartet will return to accompany the Treble Choir in a selection which highlights the beauty and hope of music in “Alway Something Sings.” With text by Ralph Waldo Emerson and music by Dan Forrest, this selection also highlights guest singer, Lydia Day. The theme of hope for our youth continues with the Kyle Pederson composition of “Remember the Children.” This song will feature four soloists: Audrey Leavitt, Aly Shook, Lucas Marriner-Ward and Daniel McGregor.

Seniors Audrey Leavitt and Aly Shook will return to the stage as they lead the student a cappella ensemble: Fortissima in three selections. This extra-curricular student-led ensemble has been rejuvenated under their direction and is flourishing in dedication and musicality. Of special note will be a Fortissima performance of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” arranged by Junior, Grace Yanz.

Throughout the evening many soloists will be featured, including Joshua Kohlstrom, Iselin Bratz, Nora Finck, Abigail Kohlstrom, Trey Freeman, Grace Yanz, Jocelyn Serrie, Charlotte Thackeray, Charlotte Nelson, Sophie Ryan, George Bickham, Maren Kinney, Alyssa Bland, Isabella Kinney and flautist Cabot Adams.

During this joyful concert student achievements in the MMEA District III and All State music festivals will be recognized, along with a tribute to our outstanding senior musicians. The concert is free to the public. As of this writing, masks, for both performers and audience members, are optional. For more information, contact director Kimberly Murphy at kim.murphy@fivetowns.net  See you at the show!

I’m certain this is going to be a spectacular concert since Kim is retiring at the end of this school year.

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Penny’s Story

April 19, 2022

MLTI t-shirt design

This story starts with the design that was selected for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) conference t-shirt. But, it’s about much more than that. It’s about a 7th grader who LOVES the arts. Congratulations to Penny Graham who attends Waterville Jr. High School. Her art work, seen below, was selected to be printed on t-shirts that will be worn by Maine middle schoolers and their teachers while they attend the virtual student conference being held, May 26. Registration is open for the MLTI Virtual Conference and all grade 7 and 8 Maine students are invited to participate.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Penny recently about her design that connects with this years conference theme: Space2Connect. Before getting to the creating part Penny looked at t-shirts from past years which helped to guide her decisions. She wanted it simple so she considered ideas with space, specifically planets. She decided on one color so it could be seen and read easily. She tried different colors including pink and green but kept coming back to purple. She’s been using the digital app Procreate on her iPad for about a year so it made sense to use it for designing the t-shirt idea. In fact, she has created a video that demonstrates her knowledge and how she went about accomplishing her design. Video about using the app Procreate. Penny’s video will be included on an upcoming episode of the MLTI SLAM Show, which focuses on student leadership in technology integration. 

Penny drawing

After being on the phone with Penny for about 45 minutes I realized that I was not only speaking to a t-shirt designer by an incredible arts advocate. “The Arts are important to me. My whole life I’ve always loved doing music and art because they’re my passions. I’ve done art clubs, I draw a lot, I played a little saxophone, guitar, and the recorder. This year I can see myself improving.”

In addition Penny loves to write, narratives and some poetry. She’ll often learn something while writing in school and goes home and practices what she’s learned. She’s had several different learning opportunities in the arts. “I love doing art with materials and using my hands and getting dirty. It is such fun.” She enjoys pen and ink, sketching, water color, rock painting and pottery. Penny also loves creating with digital tools because “I can change the design quickly and the process goes much smoother.

The arts rotate through the schedule for students at Waterville Jr. High and as a 7th grader she doesn’t have visual art but she does have music. She selected the violin which she played when she was younger and is happy to return to it. She enjoys playing in the school orchestra and likes the performances.  

She also loves theatre and has participated in the Sound of Music and Nobody Believes in Fairies which was written by one of the school’s 6th English teachers. She’s excited about the musical coming up this spring called Middleschool Madness. Penny says: “Theater is a really nice bonding experience. It’s a fun, social thing that I just love to do. I got to meet so many new people in the two plays I’ve been inMy theater experiences have all been really great.” 

Penny as Gretl

Penny also shared her experience of the pandemic. She was glad to have alone time to draw and bake and was able to pursue her hobbies. “I feel like without the pandemic I wouldn’t have been able to move forward that much. I feel like I could take big strokes that I wouldn’t have had time to do.”

Penny’s dad shared: “Waterville is a wonderful place for artistic and curious children like Penny.”

I’m certain that Penny has a bright future and I’m grateful to have met her and for our conversation.

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Nicholas Parker’s Story

February 26, 2022

Musical journey and it’s impact on something larger

This is a story about Nicholas Parker but his story is especially poignant at this time with the invasion by Russia of Ukraine earlier this week. Samantha Smith was a 10 year old girl living in Manchester, Maine when, in 1982, she wrote to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Yuri AndropovI. She was seeking to understand why the relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were so tense. Her question and bravery prompted a response and made a huge difference. She received an invitation to the Soviet Union and became a Goodwill Ambassador. Sadly, Samantha, at the age of 13, and her father, died in a plane crash. Her spirit and commitment to peace lives on. I pray for peace for the people of Ukraine.

If we could be friends by just getting to know each other better, then what are our countries really arguing about? Nothing could be more important than not having a war if a war could kill everything.” ~Samantha Smith

NICHOLAS PARKER’S STORY

As many young children do when there is a piano in the house Nicholas started ‘playing’ random notes for fun at an early age. At age 9 he started taking piano lessons from Amy Irish. At the time, he knew how to play “Do-Re-Mifrom The Sound of Music using solely his pointer finger. Amy taught him to develop his piano abilities and he fell in love with the instrument over the next decade.

PLEASE NOTE: All of the indented bold and italic sections below are quotes from Nicholas Parker.

“Plunking around on the piano and coming up with my own melodies has been one of my favorite activities since the beginning, though I never really put my efforts into writing a complete piece until the eighth grade.”

Nicholas playing Do-Re-Mi

In 2014 while in grade 8 at Reeds Brook School in Hampden Nicholas had Karyn Field for a teacher. Students were engaged in project based learning using Meridian Stories. Along with teaching Karyn was the Civil Rights Advisor so she decided to reach out to Rob Shetterly and Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) to enrich the opportunities for student learning. Rob brought some of his large portraits to school to hang in the library. Students selected a portrait from Rob’s collection and were assigned to do some sort of creative project on that person. Nicholas chose Samantha Smith.

I chose Samantha Smith, a girl from Maine who, in the ‘80s, was known as America’s Youngest Ambassador, and who traveled to the Soviet Union as a peace activist at the height of the Cold War. For my project, I wrote a piano piece about Samantha’s life.

Piano recital with Amy Irish

For several days Nicholas worked independently in the music room while writing the piece about Samantha Smith. Karyn remembers checking in with him periodically to hear what he was accomplishing. Nick used his musical abilities and combined them with Samantha Smith; an ideal project in many ways.

When Rob and AWTT staff saw and heard what Nicholas had accomplished they were very impressed. A conversation followed and out of this grew the ongoing AWTT project offered each year to middle students. The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for middle and high school students that uses the creative arts to build a bridge between the classroom and the world as students become compassionate, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them and work for the common good.

“Looking back, I would have written the piece a bit differently now (on account of my skills having developed significantly since I was 13), but the music nevertheless managed to elicit a response from Mr. Shetterly, who was present when we displayed our projects.”

Playing on a street piano

Karyn shared that Nicholas was a confident and very humble student. He was provided an amazing opportunity to take what someone did that created change and through Rob’s painting of Samantha, together they elevated her voice. Nicholas was invited, while in high school, to speak at the New England League of Middle Schools annual dinner. Karyn said: “Through his passion and intelligence and his gifts he opened doors for others students and served as a good role model.”

“Seeing the impact my project had on Mr. Shetterly and the creation of the Samantha Smith Challenge was wonderful. Since then, I’ve loved staying in touch with AWTT when I’m able, and have enjoyed learning much more in the fields of piano performance and composition.”

Nicholas returned at Christmas from a semester studying in Italy. He took time to provide an update what he’s doing and some of his thinking.

“Today, I am headed into my senior year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, where I am majoring in Music and Italian Studies. While I have grown a lot in my abilities, I must admit that I’m still trying to figure out what it is that I want to write (and how to write it). George Winston, whose CDs my parents used to play when I was growing up, is a source of much inspiration. His seasonal albums are some of my favorites, and the way in which he captures natural settings through the piano is exceptional. 

Working on music while in Italy last fall

The opportunity to teach music to others has presented itself in recent years as well, and I have found myself working with a few students—albeit largely in a virtual format—on the fundamentals of music and piano-playing. To introduce people to the piano has been an immense joy, and quite often has made me think of the importance of the arts and music in education. I personally have learned at least as much from studying music as I have from any science or math course, and in fact have found that the subjects of music and science are not quite so different. And yet, when it comes to many schools (especially those in less-privileged areas or with less funding), the arts and music programs are all too often the first on the chopping block. The benefits of music in education are plentiful, but inclusion and accessibility are indispensable when it comes to having an impact on students’ development.

Nick performing the Samantha Smith piece he wrote:

As was stated by Stanford University professor Eliot Eisner (quoted previously on this blog), “The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.” Whether by aiding in telling the story of Samantha Smith, or by helping me explore the natural world around us in a way that words and numbers cannot, music has occupied a space in my life that nothing else could. It’s impact on me has in turn given me the potential to impact a little bit of my corner of the world, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

AWTT Education Director Connie Carter has valued her time working with Nicholas and said the following: “Besides being the catalyst for AWTT’s education program the Samantha Smith Challenge, Nick has continued to be a strong voice for courageous student activism.  He has spoken at conferences about AWTT and was a critical voice in our strategic planning process.  Listening to Nick talk about the importance of finding and using one’s voice is like listening to a beautiful musical composition  — full of meaning, compassion, and inspiration.”

It was such a gift to converse with Nicholas and hear his story. His journey in many ways is just beginning, especially to those of us who have been around for many years. But, his musical journey started many years ago as a small child. I’m grateful Nicholas shared his story and I’m sure it will inspire and remind us how important it is to provide learning opportunities in the arts for all.

If you have a student or a former student whose story will inspire please contact me at meartsed@gmail.com!

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We’ve Lost a Giant

February 6, 2022

Touched so many

Sadly, we lost a giant in the arts on Friday, February 4. Ashley Bryan was 98 years old and lived everyday joyfully! His face in the photo below is how I will remember this amazing artist, advocate, storyteller, poet, and humanitarian.

Just a couple of weeks ago I read an interesting story in the Maine Sunday Telegram about a family in Virginia who purchased a home where their great grandparents lived as slaves on a plantation. I thought of Ashley Bryan and his book, Freedom Over Me. I cut the article out of the paper and sent it to him. As Ashley has done in so many books it is a beautiful collection of words and pictures. On the mainland near Ashley’s home on Little Cranberry Island he heard there was to be an auction that included paperwork from a plantation where slaves were held. Interestingly enough, the paperwork was from an auction that was selling 11 slaves. The paperwork described only the necessary items to buy and sell slaves; name, age, height, price, and little else. Ashley imagined much more about these individuals and gave them lives; describing their skills, their hopes and dreams, in poetry and images. Each are alive for the reader on the pages of the book.

Freedom Over Me is one of over 50 books that Ashley has written and illustrated. For years his children’s books have been steady and gently forceful educating on issues of color and racial diversity. He has used song, poetry, spirituals, folktales and much more to share Black culture. He received awards and recognition for many of his books including including two Coretta Scott King awards and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. He found joy in telling his stories with people of all ages through singing, tapping and moving. Ashley’s presentations started with a Langston Hughes poem My People. The youtube video below will help you understand why Ashley shared this poem and you’ll hear him reciting.

My People

The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

In 2013 the Ashley Bryan Center was created to  to “preserve, celebrate and share broadly artist Ashley Bryan’s work and his joy of discovery, invention, learning and community. The Ashley Bryan Center will promote opportunities for people to come together in the creation and appreciation of visual art, literature, music, and the oral and written traditions of poetry. The Center is fiercely committed to fostering cultural understanding and personal pride through scholarship, exhibitions and opportunities in the Arts.” The center has been doing impactful work since its inception. One component is the distribution of Ashley’s book Beautiful Blackbird. Each year copies are given to schools, libraries, and organizations serving underserved children. To date, over 20,000 books have been distributed in Maine, New York City, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.

I was fortunate in August of 2018 to travel with Central Elementary music teacher Kate Smith to Islesford to meet and visit with Ashley in his home. We were touched by his energy, joy and childlike view of the world. What a gift! We visited the Storytelling Pavilion where we viewed his amazing puppets and stained glass windows. Yesterday I shared the sad news of Ashley’s passing with friend and colleague, Catherine Ring. We agreed that there are some people that should live forever, they enrich every life they touch and make the world a better place. Ashley was one of those people, and fortunately as he reminds us in the video (linked above), that what we create will last. The art he created during his 98 years on this earth will last and there’s no doubt in my mind that it will continue to impact people of all ages in a positive and thoughtful way. At some level his message lives on in each of us touched by Ashley and his work (and play) so he’s not really gone.

If you ‘d like to learn more about Ashley visit the Ashley Bryan Center website. To contribute and to learn what a donation could support visit the donate page on the center’s website.

Earlier blog posts on “Argy’s Point of View” blog are linked below. They are filled with photos, ideas, resources, links, and so much more. One of my favorites is the story of a former student, Aaron Robinson, who collaborated with Ashley to write an African-American requiem for chamber orchestra, choir and spoken voice called A Tender Bridge.

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Happpppy New Year!

January 1, 2022

I’m seeing the new light

Here we are at the start of another year – 2022. It feels like it couldn’t possibly be over 20 years when we were turning the century and we experienced the fear of the computer flaw and the Y2K scare. I know that the last year has been absolutely crazy for educators and I am grateful for those of you who continue to dedicate yourselves to teaching and putting students best interest in the center. I’m excited about starting a new year and sharing many arts education and educators stories with you that I’ve been working on during the last month.

Today I’m sharing a short story of my own. On December 13 I attended the winter concert at Camden Hills Regional High School. Many of you know Kim Murphy who teaches music at the school and directs the chorale, treble choir and chamber singers. I was moved to tears when the treble choir sang Where the Light Begins with text by Jan Richardson and music by Susan LaBarr. The piece was originally written for a middle school and the composer was asked to “contemplate the theme of peace”. When I think about peace I imagine teachers putting on their supermen capes each morning to face the challenges of the day. The first few lines of the song Where the Light Begins…

Perhaps it does not begin.

Perhaps it is always.

Perhaps it takes a lifetime to open our eyes,

to learn to see what has forever shimmered in front of us

If you google the title you can find the rest of the words and hear the song and perhaps you’ll be moved by the piece as well.

A few days later on December 21, I invited our neighbors for a Winter Solstice gathering. Some of you know that I’ve lived on a gravel, dead end road with 6 other homes in a small Maine town for over 20 years. Over the years we’ve gotten to know our neighbors through chatting while walking on the road, welcoming new folks with a loaf of bread and exchanging cookies during the holidays. Most importantly, we wave as cars pass by. We recognize people from the cars they drive. In all these years we’ve never had a gathering of all the neighbors. Two things prompted the invitation; one was the isolation of Covid, the second reason was because one neighbor passed away in August. I am reminded, now more than ever because of Covid, how important it is to reach out to others. Our outside gathering included a chance to look at the stars, stand around the fire pit, share and exchange cookies and refreshments. And, my favorite part … we each lit a candle (children and adults) and listened to a poem called The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper. And, on the shortest day of the year, we all felt a new connection.

Today on Facebook, a former student (whose mother I also taught), had listed some favorite moments of 2021. It was a very sweet post that had beautiful photos accompanying the moments. She lives on a farm and raising her own food including vegetables, chicken and rabbits. My favorite was a picture with 6 shelves of canned foods, and baskets and crates stacked and filled with different squash. She won’t go hungry and she has plenty to share!

Her post helped me pause and give thought to some of my favorite moments this year. One is – drinking my favorite tea, quince, sent to me by my Danish sister (that I can’t find in the US). I enjoy a cup of tea while listening to Poem-a-day which comes by email from the Academy of American Poets. (If interested, sign up at https://poets.org). I’ll finish this post with today’s poem called The New Year by Carrie Williams Clifford. My wish for you for 2022 is to remember to put on your Superman cape each day and have a safe and happy new year!

The New Year comes—fling wide, fling wide the door
Of Opportunity! the spirit free
To scale the utmost heights of hopes to be,
To rest on peaks ne’er reached by man before!
The boundless infinite let us explore,
To search out undiscovered mystery,
Undreamed of in our poor philosophy!
The bounty of the gods upon us pour!
Nay, in the New Year we shall be as gods:
No longer apish puppets or dull clods
Of clay; but poised, empowered to command,
Upon the Etna of New Worlds we’ll stand—
This scant earth-raiment to the winds will cast—
Full richly robed as supermen at last!

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