'Maine Kids Rock' perform at concert to celebrate music education initiative

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Last summer, ten schools across the state were given free instruments and a cutting edge curriculum to help ensure children received access to culturally responsive music education.

Students were taught to perform rock music rather than what's traditionally taught in chorus or band.

Tuesday, those students performed at a concert at the Governor Hill Mansion in Augusta.

"I learned clarinet when I was five, and I'm still a clarinet player for classical, and it's really interesting to learn this new part of music with a rock band," said Sarah, an 11th grader at Waterville Senior High School.

Waterville Senior High School was one of 10 schools selected last year to participate in Maine Kids Rock, a program designed to get students excited about picking up an instrument.

"I've been doing chorus since fourth grade, and I thought it'd be cool to switch it up and learn some instruments," said Waterville HS 9th grader Morgan.

"We've been traditionally orchestra, chorus, band and this brings in a different kind of kid, and they're excited to see the music that they listen to on the radio, be able to put into practice. So it's pretty cool," said Sue Barre, president of the Maine Music Educators.

The pilot project was so successful, it prompted the Maine Department of Education and the national nonprofit Little Kids Rock to expand the program.

"Well it kind of gets them a little more interested in being in the program and makes me very happy because I'm a rock'n roller, so I love the music, I love some of the songs they're playing," said Deputy Commissioner of the Maine D.O.E. Suzan Beaudoin.

They hosted a concert full of rock band covers, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to the Smashing Pumpkins, in celebration of the initial $450,000 investment in instruments, training and curriculum set to expand to 30 Maine school districts.

They hope to increase that funding to two million dollars in the coming years to benefit hundreds of Maine schools.

"I think it definitely made me a little more outgoing, like I've never got onstage to sing in front of his many people. I've never sung in front of anyone really. And it's cool because in classical music you're kind of hiding behind your instruments. In a rock band, you have to get out of your shell and just go for it," said Sarah.

"You really need to work on your stage presence and you always need to be smiling," said Morgan.

Governor LePage was inducted into the Little Kids Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame and was also given a student-signed guitar thanking him and his administration for their commitment to music education.

"They even have strings on this guitar. Boy, my poor wife," laughed LePage as he accepted the guitar.

The following schools performed at the concert:

Central Community Elementary School, RSU 64
Crescent Park and Woodstock Elementary Schools, RSU 44
East End Community School, Portland Public Schools
Hitchborn Middle School and Penobscot Valley High School, RSU31
Houlton Middle/High School, RSU 29
Katahdin Elementary, Middle and High Schools, RSU 50
Medway Middle School, Medway School Department
Meroby and Rumford Elementary Schools, RSU 10
Troy Howard Middle School, RSU 71
Waterville Senior High School, AOS 92