Jaci Presby of Norway holds her service dog, Sophie, at the first Oxford Hills Community Choir rehearsal Sept. 30 at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

PARIS — A community choir saved Dennis Boyd Jr.’s musical life.

In 2015, he had graduated with a music education degree and found himself managing a security company.

“I was miserable out of my mind,” Boyd said. “My friend dragged me to this community choir rehearsal in South Berwick. I joined it, and it relit the fire for me. It took me a couple of years to get into teaching, but that choir kept me alive in that process.”

The music teacher at Oxford Hills Middle and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High schools is in his 11th year as choir director for School Administrative District 17 in Paris.

He recently formed the Oxford Hills Community Choir, a group of singers who has performed at the Christmas for Teens Concert, held annually since 2000, but wanted to entertain audiences year-round.

“Everyone was like, ‘why don’t we do this more?’ Money!” Boyd said.

“A community choir can do so many things for a community,” he said. “It gives people a place to voice what they want to do. We have a fabulous every-other-year tradition of school and community shows, but after that’s done, what do you do?”

The financial barrier disappeared after Boyd received a $4,000 grant from the Oxford Hills Educational Association. His vision for a dedicated community choir in the Oxford Hills began to take shape.

The choir’s first concert will be for Christmas for Teens at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at the high school.

Boyd hopes to do another Christmas concert in the community and have the audience join the choir in singing carols. After that, the choir will prepare for a concert in April.

That comes as welcome news for Jaci Presby of Norway, who with her service dog, Sophie, has participated in the Christmas for Teens Concert the past 10 years. She said she always felt a void once the season ended.

“I’ve been asking them to do this for years,” Presby said.

The former high school choir singer and dance studio owner said she counts down the days every year until the choir starts.

“I started bringing Sophie when my father first passed away … she comes with me everywhere I go, and we enjoy it so much,” she said. “I look forward to it every year and I have great friends here. They’re really supportive. It’s like family.”

Boyd is looking for more singers — a diverse group of current and former students and dedicated older community members — for this year’s choir.

“Singing is a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Your lips will go, and you can’t play trumpet anymore. Your fingers will go, and you can’t play guitar anymore. But singing is something you can do almost all of your life.”

Boyd said anyone is welcome to attend rehearsals from 6:30 to 8 p.m. each Monday from now until the Dec. 6 concert.

Dennis Boyd Jr. plays the piano during warm-ups for the Oxford Hills Community Choir at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris on Sept. 30. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

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