Media Archive

SAD 41 music program hits the right note

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 39, September 24, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

Observer Photo/Jessica Lee
MUSIC IN THE MAKING Jack Eastman, elementary music teacher in SAD 41, demonstrates how to hold a flute to prospective band members, from left, Michael Lagasse, Taylor Small and Darlene Desrocher.

MILO The halls are alive with the sound of music.

The halls in SAD 41's elementary schools, that is.

Starting this fall, students in grades K-6 have regular music class once a week, and a fifth grade band is in the beginning stages to join the sixth-grade counterpart as funding for the elementary music program was restored in the 2003-04 budget after a seven-year hiatus.

Jack Eastman, longtime music teacher at Penquis Valley High School in Milo, is leading the charge on the front lines creating songs for the young students to sing, teaching music appreciation of all styles and bringing instruments into the classrooms.

Weekly music classes are now offered at Milo and Brownville elementary schools, along with the Marion C. Cook School in LaGrange.

"Music education is of the utmost importance," Eastman said recently. "It is the all-encompassing subject. Historically, former civilizations did not consider a person to be educated unless they knew music."

On a recent afternoon, Eastman brought 21 fifth-graders together at Milo Elementary School for a lesson on the proper handling and care of instruments each student had a flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet or trombone in hand. Many of the youngsters had eagerly submitted parental consent forms to join the new band. An informational meeting about renting and buying instruments was held Monday night.

For those families who may not be able to afford the cost of buying or renting an instrument for a SAD 41 student, Eastman plans to find instruments for student use whether in his collection yielded from yard sales and fixed with his box full of parts, or by seeking donations. Right now, he is accepting any donations of used instruments.

"Every student who wants to play in the band, we'll try to do everything we can" to match them with an instrument, said Milo Elementary School Principal Christine Beres. "Nobody will go without."

Beres said that bringing music back into the elementary schools does help the district meet requirements of the Maine Learning Results, but, more important, it will promote creativity and impact learning across-the-board.

"Jack has generated a lot of excitement about music," Beres said, "and an interest in music is life-long."

Brownville Elementary School Principal Shirley Wright, who also serves as curriculum coordinator for the district, is also thinking in terms of meeting educational requirements. Funding the elementary music program this year "was a huge priority for the school district," she said, pointing out that "at a time when the budget was being cut, we added a position." The music program will help the district align its curriculum with the Maine Learning Results,spin-off into other subjects, making the harder work all the more easier.

So far, the students and teachers are thrilled, Wright said.

"The kids are very excited - they love it. And the music teacher is really wonderful," Wright said.

That much was evident last week, as the fifth-graders in Milo completed their lesson in instrument-handling. Wearing wide smiles, the youngsters listened - mostly attentively, always eagerly - to Eastman's directions on assembling their chosen instruments. They held the instruments deliberately and delicately, as if afraid to lose this chance.

And while they didn't play the instruments that day, that time is now sooner to come than ever before.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.