Maine Music Educators Help Root Modern Band Curriculum into Maine Schools

Spencer Hale

Educators from across the state gathered at Orono High School recently for their Modern Band 102 lesson, a second professional learning opportunity available through the Maine Kids Rock Program. Delivered by Little Kids Rock Educator Spencer Hale, the class gave educators the opportunity to fine tune their technique, and to build upon what they had learned in the previous modern band lessons they’ve been participating. Through the Maine Kids Rock program, each of these educators accepted $5,000 worth of modern band instruments, along with resources and hands-on learning opportunities to help them run modern band programs in their schools, an opportunity they would otherwise not be able to give to their students.

There are currently 35 Maine schools offering modern band programs through the Maine Kids Rock program. To be eligible for participation, districts agreed to offer modern band – taught by a certified music teacher, with priority given to schools who serve 50% or more free or reduced meals to eligible students.

During introductions at Modern Band 102, educators in attendance shared their name, school, the age group they are teaching, and the music the kids are working on. Their students were learning a wide-range of modern music selections, of their choosing, like Lost Boy by Ruth B., Count on Me by Bruno Mars, Best Day of My Life by American Authors, Ho Hey by The Lumineers, and Happy People by Little Big Town, on a variety of modern band instruments provided through the Maine Kids Rock Program.

Orono High School Music Teacher and Band Director Jen Acosta, who has been hosting the modern band professional learning in her music room for the past 3 years as a central location in Maine, only recently joined the program and currently offers modern band programming and instruments to her students.

Jen Acosta and Jason Anderson

“This is revitalizing [music] programs,” said Acosta. “It gives people the opportunity to use whatever resources they have to get kids playing music,” she added. Acosta went on to explain that it also serves as a gateway to music education in general. Being able to play and sing the songs they are listening to on the radio and on TV gets so many more students interested in music education than otherwise would be. Once they learn how to play one instrument, they most likely will pick up another she explained.

“The approach is so open it gives teachers a lot of autonomy,” added Maine DOE Visual and Performing Arts Specialist Jason Anderson. New to the Department, Anderson recently came from his long-time position as Vocal Music Director at Houlton High School, one of the original 10 pilot schools awarded instruments and modern band resources when Maine Kids Rock was created.

Developed between the Maine Department of Education and national nonprofit Little Kids Rock in 2017, the Maine Kids Rock program is funded through a combination of Little Kids Rock donors and a portion of the State of Maine’s education budget, which is approved each year by the Maine State Legislature.

“I think the biggest standout – from top down – is that it represents the ‘do’ approach. Getting them [the kids] to do something,” said Acosta. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” She went on to explain that music education like this is going to change music culture. While students are still in the midst of learning modern band right now, they will eventually graduate and move on to post-secondary options and careers, having learned modern music at a much earlier age than students have been able to previously. This will more than likely result in new and innovative music creations and performances to come from our next generation of musicians.