MEXICO — Students at Meroby Elementary school, like many students across the country, have the opportunity to be involved in music to enrich their lives and learn a valuable, enjoyable skill.

However, like many art programs, the costs of maintaining it — mainly dealing with instrument purchases and repairs — are overwhelming.

Alicia Farmer, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory with a master’s degree in music, has been teaching music at Meroby since 2000. She is reaching out to the community in an attempt to raise awareness about the importance of the music program and how the community can help.

Since 2000, Farmer has worked to build the program and make instruments available to more students. With a small annual budget, Farmer said she began to accumulate percussion instruments for the classroom in her early teaching years “to provide an active approach to music learning.”

At that time, students only rehearsed one to two times a week and were expected to provide their own instruments, because the classroom could only loan two or three instruments, and even those were often in need of repairs.

Learning to play an instrument can be an expensive hobby, and Farmer said she has noticed the strain on families to keep their child making music.

“In recent years, it became increasingly hard for families to rent instruments,” Farmer said. “The monthly price had often been difficult and now (is) impossible to manage. I was excited that so many students were interested in band, and sought out a new place to have repairs done.”

She found one — Main Street Music in Auburn — along with help from L-A’s own “Mr. Music Man,” Carroll Poulin. With their assistance, Farmer said she’s been able to have her current instruments maintained a fair price.

Main Street Music also donated two instruments last year, and Poulin recently donated another.

Not only do the students in the music program benefit from hands-on learning in the classroom, but fifth-graders also get to take an annual field trip to see the Portland Symphony Orchestra, performing a concert specifically designed for elementary students.

“These wonderful performances allow our students to hear live music in a beautiful setting,” Farmer said. “It serves as an inspiration to many of our students.” 

Beginning music lessons at a young age helps to better develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning, as well as pave the way for reading readiness, Farmer said.

“There are many cognitive benefits of music, and we know that it helps us feel the joy — among many feelings — of being alive,” she said. 

Work to build the music program is continuing, but there are not enough instruments available for every child who would like to play one, Farmer said. For those who would like to help the program, Farmer said cash donations and musical instruments are always appreciated.

“It is wonderful that so many parents and community members support our music program,” Farmer said. “This is evident by the large crowds at our winter and spring concerts. I would ask that parents and family members continue to make it clear to our district leaders that music is essential in elementary, middle and high school.”

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