Community Music School plans for next semester

Kesha Williams
October 03, 2011

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Elizabeth City State University's Community Music School (CMS) is in its fifth week and organizers say they are encouraged by the progress. Seven teachers from local school systems and an instructor from Virginia are leading the 22 students enrolled. The students are taking applied lessons in piano, voice, guitar, percussion and strings.

CMS students range in age from 6 to 60-plus, with the largest number enrolled in piano. Most also are entry-level students who are enthused about the private lessons, which are held in the practice rooms at the Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Center on the ECSU campus.

The Community Music School is a community outreach effort of the ECSU Music Department. The department received professional accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music in 2007. In order to satisfy NASM's recommendations and to be consistent with long-term expansion of community outreach initiatives, the department agreed to begin a community music school.

CMS Director Rae Newson said the students arrive each week eager for their one-on-one lessons, which are held between 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

CMS students can select a 30 minute session or an hour long session.

"It's good to enroll elementary aged students while their interest is high and they are willing to learn. Their minds and hearts are open for a new challenge when they are young," Newson said.

She said she is pleased with how the program is progressing."We realize that some parents needed more time to save money for these lessons. There are so many expenses related to the start of school in September that it wasn't convenient for them to enroll last August," when the program originally was slated to start.

Newson says the CMS is prepared to enroll a larger number of students next semester and likely will establish some music classes for group instruction, as well.  There are plenty of free parking spaces near the Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Center, though a parking pass is necessary. University Police issues parking passes.

The CMS was established with an initial $2,500 grant from the Arts of the Albemarle in an effort to increase the number of trained musicians in the community. Recently, an additional $1,000 came from the City of Elizabeth City's community support grants, which were designed to assist up to 11 nonprofits that serve residents in Elizabeth City. Newson said CMS applied for $5,000, but wasn't able to get such a large amount because of the number of other applicants.

City of Elizabeth City Councilwoman Lena Hill Lawrence said the City Council is encouraged by this partnership and applauds Arts of the Albemarle for their support of the CMS.

"In these economic times, we have call upon all the resources that we have access to--- our institutions of higher education. The talented professors who teach there have so much to offer. This is a good example of how we benefit as a city, as a region by having institutions of higher learning in our community," Hill-Lawrence said.

Hill-Lawrence says she is excited about start of the CMS because it will yield great result years down the road. She recalled many people in the community who work in one capacity but are also accomplished musicians. She says local youths need to know music skills can lead to a wide range of career options. The joy of playing an instrument can also give a youth or adult hours of personal satisfaction. They transfer that joy and satisfaction when they join ensembles, bands and orchestras that hold public concerts. According to Hill Lawrence, it all begins with the music lesson.

"I know this Community Music School is one of the best things that could have happen.  Music lessons are much higher in other cities than the fees students pay here. This is also a way for us to grow local talent," Hill-Lawrence said. "We are fortunate when people like Dr. Roosevelt Newson, a concert pianist who has performed at cities around the world, and his wife Rae Newson to move here, but we now have an opportunity to develop talented musicians who attend our local schools. With local music teachers teaching at the Community Music School as well, it's just a blessing for our community."

In late November and early December, registration will begin for the Community Music School's second semester, which will run from Jan. 11 to April 28.

ECSU also will offer payroll deduction payment plans for university employees who would like to enroll in CMS.