2017-03-02 / Editorial

Local grant advances arts education

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

Throughout middle school and high school there was an activity that sparked my creativity, taught me crucial team building skills and helped me overall with core academic subjects. That activity was band.

I started playing the trumpet when my mom decided to pass her old golden brass horn down to the next generation. I had wanted to sign up for band class anyway, but it was between the trumpet and the drums. After failing a drum test run, I auditioned for a trumpet position. This was after several attempts at mastering the buzzing of my lips that would be a key element to hearing a sound from it, let alone a good sound.

From that point on, I really got into the craft. It was a lot of work, practicing a little bit each day, much to the chagrin of others in the house and probably our neighbors. I’ve been in award winning marching bands to concert bands to ultimately being selected for the Portland Youth Wind Ensemble. My band teachers along the way made me love playing. Made it fun to play with a cross section of my peers.

I give you this personal experience to illustrate how important the arts are to growing up and the educational journey. As someone who never received the athletic gene (that was my sister), band provided me an outlet, a safe haven for creative expression and gave me a good reason to go to school. It connected the dots for me that there was a direct correlation between the amount of hard work you put into something, how well you work with others, and how well you listen, to achieving a successful outcome no matter how you apply that in life.

The arts meant a lot to me growing up and subsequently, as I look at my service to our state in the legislature and my volunteer work in the community, I want to ensure others have similar opportunities.

Through my nonprofit, Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, we created the Arts Action Fund. This grant was born out of a desire to help support our educators and their classrooms with needs ever increasing. Especially in an era of school budget cuts, it’s important that we invest in an expansion of the arts and music in our community.

For our first round of grants I’m pleased to announce we have awarded $1,500 to classrooms throughout Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach to promote advancement of the arts.

Burns School in Saco, Loranger Memorial in Old Orchard Beach, and Saint James in Biddeford are our first recipients of the Arts Action Fund Grant. This was after an application process where teachers had to come up with specific proposals on how they were going to use the grant to better their programs. Burns School is using the grant money to fund ethnic instruments for cultural immersion experiences. Loranger Memorial is starting a ukulele program and Saint James is purchasing a variety of band instruments for students most in need.

Congratulations to our recipients for their commitment to the arts and to the students at their schools benefiting from it. Funding for the grant was obtained through our annual benefit concert, the Kidz Winter Jamboree. Rob Duquette of Saco, who performs for young kids throughout southern Maine, will be the headliner with his band at our second annual Kidz Winter Jamboree. Rob and his band will play family friendly songs perfect for those with young children.

The event will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 11 in the Thornton Academy auditorium. Tickets are $5 per person and can be bought prior to the event online at www.sacobaycenter.org. Hope to see you all there to support the arts in our local schools.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is owner of Chenette Media LLC, a multimedia public relations company, and is the president/CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook.com/JustinChenette.com.

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