Greetings! I hope you and your family are well. As you may know, we moved to our very own building in the historic district of Portland’s West End in September, 2021. We are thrilled to have our own space after serving the Greater Portland area for over 25 years. The purchase was made possible by an anonymous donation, for which we are most grateful.
We had a busy summer renovating the space with a fresh air system, improving ADA accessibility, adding acoustic refinements, installing a new fire alarm system, and painting (thanks to the help of many volunteers!). There is still much work to be done, such as enlarging the performance stage and adding an elevator/lift, an air conditioning system, and a sprinkler system (for fire safety), which we hope to accomplish soon, depending on our ability to meet our fundraising goals.
Our new building is a game changer for us as it will allow us to expand our group programming; better meet the needs of the community and keep music lessons affordable. We love making music and believe strongly in the added benefits of making music together, in community.
It’s been a challenging year, but we are glad we are still here doing what we love and adding to the cultural life of Southern Maine. We are back to providing in-person lessons and group classes and continue to offer online lessons as well. We pride ourselves in the exceptional quality of our teachers and our mission to provide equal access to quality music education through musical instruction and concert performances. Both our Noonday Concert Series and our Dimensions in Jazz series are also now in-person and we’ve been thrilled to host them in our new space. It’s been wonderful to welcome back our friends and greet new audience members for these performances in our new building.
Why Music Education Matters
As music educators, we understand the benefits of music education. Music has the power to heal and nourish the soul. It allows students of all ages to express themselves in ways that other forms of communication simply cannot. The disciple of daily practice sets the foundation for good habits and structure, while the resulting progress yields students a sense of confidence in their abilities.
As studies have shown, studying music is like exercising the brain; it enhances cognitive development and creates new neural pathways, which is probably why many successful people have studied music. Playing music in groups has the added benefit of building social skills, particularly listening and team building.
Private Lessons and Class Offerings
We employ over 50 faculty and provide instruction for 30+ instruments. We are a classically based community music school with piano and strings being our most popular instruments. That being said, we also have a vibrant Jazz Studies Program and offer classes in world music as well.
As a community music school for all ages, abilities, and financial levels, we have worked hard to add a variety of group opportunities to enhance community and keep music lessons affordable. Group classes include Early Childhood Music Program (ages 1-5), youth choirs (grades K-12), jazz history/theory/ensembles (teens and adults), chamber music (advanced and beginning, all ages), cello choir, Middle Eastern ensemble, and fiddle. On Saturdays we offer the College Prep Program for advanced middle and high school students considering a future in music. Coming in fall 2022, we hope to offer an adult choir, although it depends on the pandemic.
We were excited this December (2021) to hold our first in-person recitals since the pandemic started in spring 2020. We didn’t know how many students would participate due to COVID concerns, but we held three recitals for a total of over 65 students and 200 audience members (all wearing masks and socially distanced). It was wonderful to hear them and they all did an excellent job. Bravo!
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Thanks to the efforts of our faculty from our annual Faculty Fundraising Concerts and generous donations from our supporters for pandemic relief, we are able to offer need-based financial aid of 30-75% off the cost of lessons. These discounts are available for both children and adults for private and group classes.
We also offer Extended Lesson Scholarships as a reward for dedicated students by providing an additional 15 minutes of free lesson time every week throughout the course of the academic year.
Tuition discounts are also available for military personnel and families with multiple students.
In summer 2021 we held our first in-person concerts since the pandemic through our first Casco Bay Island Summer Concert Series, which took us to Peaks Island, Great Diamond Island, Long Island, and Chebeague Island. A great time was had by all and it was wonderful to hear live music again, particularly in outside settings at various lovely Maine islands. It was a real treat, which we hope to be able to continue.
In fall 2021 we returned to indoor in-person concerts. Our free Noonday Concert Series has been an integral part of our mission for 26 years to provide equal access to quality music and highlight our talented faculty and students. These bi-monthly concerts are currently presented in our new building. We normally alternate locations with the Portland Public Library for these concerts, but the library has been closed to live events due to the pandemic. We hope to resume this collaboration next fall as we love working with the library.
We also resumed our Dimensions in Jazz series for in-person concerts in our new building. This innovative series brings national and international jazz musicians to Portland and serves to supplement our Jazz Studies Program. We hope to collaborate again with innovative venue partners such as Cove Street Arts, SPACE Gallery, and the Apohadion Theater in the near future, but again it depends on COVID.
Other events include a planned Faculty Fundraising Concert on March 5th to raise funds for our building renovations. We also hope to hold our Spring Serenade fundraiser sometime in May. The Spring Serenade highlights our talented students and is always a great time.
It is a challenge running a nonprofit community music school, now more than ever. Although arts education is sometimes not seen as a primary need, it is a means of creating better citizens and enriching our community, which is fundamental to the welfare of our society, as we we’ve seen more plainly during the pandemic. If you’ve ever considered learning an instrument or singing, we encourage you to register. Our faculty are truly exceptional and we have lots of fun making music together.
As we embark on our 26th anniversary, we are looking at how best to serve our community going forward. If you would like to help us in this endeavor, please contact us. We are always looking for volunteers, board members, and of course, donors.