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Music lessons bring UMaine students, middle schoolers together during pandemic

Music programs look a little different since students are not allowed to play instruments together.
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 4:57 PM EDT
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OLD TOWN, Maine (WABI) - Since the pandemic began students and teachers have had to find new ways to learn and teach - especially music teachers.

Music programs look a little different since students are not allowed to play instruments together.

Old Town middle schoolers have found a way around that, and they’re getting some help from their heroes.

Like others, students at Leonard Middle School in Old Town have been practicing their instruments at home.

Now, they’re getting some college guidance.

Director of Music at Leonard Middle School, Shianne Priest, and Dr. Philip Edelman from the UMaine Music Education program have teamed up to allow their students to learn from one another.

Each week, more than 30 music education students give free private lessons to kids in grades six through eight.

“The University students are doing a great job of making it fun for these kids, during a time when music could be a real drag,” said Priest.

"We can talk about the theories of teaching until we’re blue in the face but until they actually sit down with a 7th grader and say, “no, you have to push this button on your trumpet to make that note,” you know, it’s impractical," said Edelman.

Each college student receives an assignment from Priest to teach.

Each lesson is also recorded, so Edelman can give students feedback.

“For them to actively ask a question and for me to have an opportunity to address that and make it part of our curriculum has been a really good exercise for me to sort of revamp what’s actually important as we help these students get ready to become teachers,” said Edelman.

"They have acquired “superhero” status very quickly," said Priest. "My students are coming in saying, “I have my lesson today,” or “I had my lesson yesterday” and they are talking about these people as though they adore them, and they truly do."

Priest says these University of Maine students have been able to empathize with her students.

Many of their classes are virtual, too.

“I am blessed to be able to do it all because at first I thought I wasn’t going to be student teaching at all so, this has been good to have students like Will who are so eager to learn,” said Senior instructor, Jake Gebhart.

Gebhart has been teaching Will Chapman the trombone.

They’ve been working together for one-hour each week for just a few weeks now, but his mom tells us he’s already making gains.

“After his first couple of lessons he picked up his trombone more frequently for sure to practice on his own after having the lesson, and it’s just been a really good experience,” said Will’s mom, Beth Chapman.

The program will last throughout the semester.

Teachers waiting for what comes next with guidance from the Department of Education.

Both Edelman and Priest wish they could do more for their students, but this will have to do, for now.

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