Anna Maria College program provides music education to Worcester students

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It’s an unusually hot day, but Christmas songs are reverberating inside Miriam Hall at Anna Maria College in the late afternoon this past Wednesday.


With nothing more than a mention of its name by instructor Alexis Phillips, her eight students break out into a choral rendition of “A Marshmallow World” – one of the songs they’re planning to perform at their upcoming December recital.

While the sound of music is nothing unusual at Miriam, where the college’s music department is located, to hear children’s voices is something new. For some of the kids, meanwhile, “it’s the first time they’ve sung” in a choir, said Melissa Martiros, Anna Maria’s director of music.

Ms. Martiros, who joined the college, located just next door to her hometown of Spencer, last year, is the main architect behind the new OpporTUNEity program, which brings students from Worcester’s Lincoln Street School to campus each Wednesday this fall to receive musical instruction from Anna Maria students. The former program coordinator of music at Martin Methodist College in Tennessee, Ms. Martiros started the after-school program in that southern state five years ago, and hopes to show it can be just as mutually beneficial for Anna Maria and Worcester students here as well.

"I want to see this first cohort of kids go to college,” she said. “I want to see them become well-rounded musicians.”

The basic premise of OpporTUNEity is to provide musical education to students who normally might not get the opportunity. While Lincoln Street, which has one of the highest percentages of economically disadvantaged students in the city, does offer music lessons and classes, it doesn’t have the resources for extracurricular instruction like the kind Anna Maria can provide.

When she originally contacted the district’s performing arts liaison, Lisa Leach, to make her proposal last year, Ms. Martiros said Ms. Leach steered her toward working with Lincoln Street for that reason.

“The majority of these kids, they don’t even think about taking the lessons, because you have to get your own instruments,” said Kathy Stevens, an instructional assistant at the school and mother of two kids currently involved in the OpporTUNEity program. The school also doesn’t have any after-school musical programming.

At Anna Maria, participating students – there were around 25 signed up as of this past Wednesday, according to Ms. Martiros – cycle between three classrooms, where they learn choral singing, piano, and take part in music therapy, all under the direction of the college’s music students. In a classroom led by Abby Warren, Katelyn Sable and Liz Hastings – all junior music therapy majors – for instance, students started their session banging on drums and shaking maracas in a circle, and then transitioned into a sing-along of “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.”

“It’s just calming – it makes me feel like I’m at a camp site,” said sixth-grader Rushel Volcy, who added music therapy was her favorite class in the program. Music in general “brings me joy,” said Rushel, who is also learning the violin – “without music, there wouldn’t be a world for me.”

Despite most of the kids’ lack of formal training, “they pick things up quickly,” Ms. Hastings said. “They’re very in tune with how music’s structured.”

Article written by Scott O’Connell from the Telegram & Gazette.
Original article at: https://www.telegram.com/news/20181012/new-anna-maria-college-program-provides-music-education-to-worcester-students

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