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USM School of Music hosts statewide Strings Roundtable

Youth Ensembles

On September 29th, the USM School of Music hosted a statewide Strings Roundtable, the second such meeting in which “string stakeholders” (performers, educators, administrators and teachers) in the state of Maine come together to share thoughts, ideas and experiences of engaging and educating Maine youth in strings education and performance. The meeting— organized by the Maine Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE) in collaboration with USM Music professor, Robert Lehmann, director of string studies and orchestral activities, and artistic coordinator of the Portland Youth Ensembles—focused primarily on creating, fostering and sustaining strings programs in Maine public schools.

This year’s Roundtable at USM, with its specific focus on strings in public schools, yielded a larger number of public school strings educators. Many in attendance had ties to the USM School of Music, including many USM alumni who now work as music teachers. Other attendees represented the Maine chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA), Southern Maine String Camp, Da Ponte String Quartet, Scarborough Strings, Maine Suzuki Association and Eastport Strings. The roundtable framework gave each teacher a chance to describe his or her program and the challenges they face.

“Cuts to music programs over many years have taken their toll on the availability of ensemble offerings at many schools,” Lehmann said. “Strings programs in particular have perhaps suffered the most, and there are now fewer than a dozen viable orchestra programs in the state of Maine. Many (attendees) described challenges that had been overcome and challenges still ahead of them. However, the overall message of their experience was positive and inspiring.”

The Maine Strings Roundtable will visit other areas around the state with a focus on different aspects of youth engagement and strings instruction. “The roundtable at USM about creating public school strings programs was critical,” Susan Potters said, “and plans are being made to bring the ideas and experiences shared by the educators at that meeting to a larger audience.”

For more information on the Maine Strings Roundtable, contact Susan Potters at spotters@maineartsed.org.