MHS: Music in a coronavirus world

The Messalonskee High School band practicing outside, at the school, in Oakland. (contributed photo)

by Colin Hickey
MHS English teacher

Try playing a saxophone outside when the temperature is 47 degrees. It’s not easy, and it’s not particularly pleasant. But for members of the Messalonskee High School band program, playing outside has become a necessity in the year of the pandemic, a year in which the music could have died.

“It is doable,” Messalonskee band director Andy Forster said of the outside venue, “but your finger dexterity slows down quite a bit and tuning your instruments is just something you don’t worry about because you need room temperature to do that.”

Forster, though, accepts the inconvenience of playing in chilly weather, and he is willing to adapt in sundry other ways as well. For example, he runs 100 feet of cable outside from the Performing Arts Center so he can hook up a wireless mic to the sound system he reconfigured to work both inside and outside the auditorium. To set it up, he comes to school even earlier than in the past – another inconvenience he accepts as the price of keeping the music alive.

What he cannot preserve, at least for now, is the ability to practice and hold performances inside. The concerts and other musical events that used to fill the fall calendar have all been erased this year, and the sad reality, he said, is they might not return until next fall at the earliest.

But Forster said, “If you focus on what you can’t do, you’ll be stuck and paralyzed and once you do that, the students have lost. They’ve lost everything.”

So instead of bemoaning the losses, Forster celebrates what he can do. “I can be grateful that I work in this (school) district in that I get to see my kids and have my classes,” he said, sitting in his band room as he talked through his mask.  “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be creative. That is not the case throughout the state.”

Forster talked of school districts in which music teachers have had to switch to teaching science and others in which they have become designated substitute teachers.

“It is all shades of bad,” he said of such situations. “As a music teacher, I can’t support any of those decisions.”

Forster realizes that he and his music program face many challenges ahead. As winter approaches, the temperatures will dip to the point in which playing outside no longer will be an option, but Forster already has plans to overcome that frigid reality.

He points to bundles of wooden rhythm sticks in his band room that he ordered. His vision is to distribute those percussion pieces to his students to transform them into a huge rhythm section spread safely across the Performing Arts Center. Forster said he has yet to write the arrangements and create the routines, but the instruments and the determination to put them to use are in place.

Such an approach to making music avoids the dangers caused when blowing into mouth pieces or, in the case of vocalists, breaking into song. Those two methods generate the aerosol emissions that epidemiologists say is a prime way to spread the corona virus and thus methods they warn to avoid at all costs.

Forster, who is married to a physician and has a brother in the medical field, understands full well the danger that his beloved music can generate. At the same time, he also understands that it’s vital to keep his students involved with music, and that gets back to his commitment to adapt rather than bemoan.

Along with his plan for the extensive rhythm section, Forster talks of shifting from performance to creation as the focal point of his program. Instead of playing in front of an audience, he will teach his students how to compose and arrange music – music, he hopes, they one day  will be able to share with classmates and others in a world without the need for masks, a world once more filled with beautiful sounds.

Business breakfast to feature “Advocacy Refresher”

Tim Walton, founder, and president of Walton External Affairs will deliver a talk entitled “An Advocacy Refresher” as he explores why the Legislature matters to you and your business, as well as how a bill becomes a law.

This informative presentation will be the focus at Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s September Business Breakfast. This month’s breakfast will be held on Thursday, September 10, from 7:15 to 9:00 a.m. in the Waterville Country Club Banquet Room at 39 Country Club Road in Oakland.

Walton External Affairs is an Augusta, Maine-based firm with an excellent reputation for strategic focus in the areas of government, business, and industry relations.

With a notable career spanning over twenty-five years, Tim has earned the reputation of being an effective, resourceful, and responsive voice for those he represents. He is well-known and highly respected for his commitment to customer service and client satisfaction.

Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce holds monthly informative presentations on a variety of educational business topics. Cost of the Business Breakfast is $20 for members, $27 at the door and for non-members. Breakfast is included with the reservation.

To register, e-mail Cindy@midmainechamber.com or call 207-873-3315.

Local scouts rally in attempt to save Camp Bomazeen

(left to right) Dalton Curtis, Zachary LeHay and Connor Keimel

Submitted by Chuck Mahalaris

Scouts from across the area are busy working on a new and difficult project. If they are successful, there is no merit badge for them to receive but something even better. They hope to save their beloved Scout Camp – Camp Bomazeen.

Dalton Curtis, of Skowhegan, Dawson White, of Sidney, and Zachary LeHay, of Oakland, are some of the Scouts who have begun circulating a petition to save Camp Bomazeen. The Scouts visited leaders during the recent Kennebec Valley District Scouter Recognition Dinner/ Program Kick Off at Camp Bomazeen. They asked them to sign the petition that night and to ask if any Scouts in their Pack and Troop want to help collect more signatures in their area. The petitions will be presented to the Pine Tree Council Executive Board at an upcoming meeting. In July, the council executive board voted to sell the camp this year – its 75th anniversary since opening.

Life Scout Connor Keimel, of Troop #401, Sidney, is one of the Scouts taking part in the petition drive and said, “Bomazeen has been a camp that I have gone to for so many years. I have made so many memories here. It would be such a shame if other Scouts coming forward didn’t have the opportunity to go there.” Eagle Scout Dalton Curtis, of Troop #485, in Skowhegan, said he learned to swim at Bomazeen and he loves all of the aquatics activities. Zachary LeHay, a Second Class Scout, from Oakland, said that he enjoys the camp in all the seasons. He has taken part in winter camping trips there and week-long summer camp experiences. Star Scout Dawson White, of Troop #401, in Sidney, loves the shooting sports program at Camp Bomazeen. “I have never been to another Scout camp. I just love it and would hate to lose it.”

Dalton’s mother, Tammy James, said that he has been working hard on collecting signatures but it has been hard with Covid-19. “Some people aren’t really happy about us going to their doors even with masks on,” she said. “But he is continuing to work on his sheet and will be bringing it to the troop leaders’ meeting. He really has gotten so much from his time at Camp Bomazeen. He would live there if he could.”

Former Camp Bomazeen Director Bruce Rueger, of Waterville, praised the Scouts for their effort. “I was heartened to see the Scouts doing this,” Rueger said. “They clearly have formed a strong bond with the camp. I think that is what happens. You spend so much of your time camping at Bomazeen, taking part in camporees there, working on merit badges there, learning about nature, exploring the world around you and discovering things about yourself as you do – it becomes a part of who you are and you want to preserve it for others. Camp Bomazeen has given to them and generations that have come before them and now they want to give back when Bomazeen needs their help the most. Bomazeen has made a remarkable difference in so many people’s lives since it was given to Scouting by Dr. Averill in 1944. Some of our Scouts went on to serve in the military, help the needy and run large corporations. Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, in Pittsfield, was a Bomazeen Scout in 1959 as was his son and grandson as well. ”

Chris Bernier, of Winslow, runs the Bushcraft Program at Bomazeen which is a living history program designed to teach Scouts skills such as Native lore, blacksmithing, outdoor cooking, muzzle-loading, basket-making, metal working, woodworking, candle making, to hide tanning. The program transports Scouts from today back to the pioneer days of the 1840s. Before joining the staff, Bernier was a Scout at Camp Bomazeen. “I think that the Scouts wish to do this it is a great way for them to practice citizenship,” Bernier said. “They see something wrong and they are peacefully trying to make it better. They wish to see an active change and to do so in this manner is practicing what they learned in their citizenship badges. In this case Citizenship in the Community – the community of Scouting for them and future Scouts.”

Scouts from several communities including Jackman, Skowhegan, Sidney, Oakland, and Augusta are working the petitions that they began circulating on August 12. They hope to convince the Scouting Executive Board to reconsider their vote to sell the camp and, if not, that they hope to convince whatever entity buys the property to allow the Scouts to continue to use it as they have for the past 75 years.

For those who would like to lend their name to the petition but would not like a Scout to visit due to Covid-19 concerns, email FriendsofBomazeen@gmail.com or send a message to the Facebook page Friends of Bomazeen. Be sure to include your name, town and what Bomazeen means to you.

FISHY PHOTOS: Brother & Sister Act

Hunter Hallee, left, 14, of Rome, displays the nice brown trout he caught while fishing with his maternal grandfather, Terry Greenleaf, of Oakland, and his sister, Megan Hallee, 11, displays her own brown trout. They were fishing on Great Pond, in Belgrade. Hunter and Megan are the children of Ryan and Rachel Hallee, of Rome.

Literacy Volunteers announces winners of scholarship contest

Adam Bonenfant

Literacy Volunteers Waterville Area has announced the two winners of their Literacy Volunteers Waterville Area Essay Scholarship Awards. Issac Violette, a resident of Oakland, and a 2020 graduate from Messalonskee High School, in Oakland, won the $500 scholarship award and plans to attend classes at the Orono campus of the University of Maine. Adam Bonenfant, a resident of Vassalboro, and a 2020 graduate from Erskine Academy, in South China, won the $150 award. Adam plans to pursue his studies at Kennebec Valley Community College, in Fairfield, in the fall.

Issac Violette

Camp Tracy alumni scholarships available

Photo source: Camp Tracy website (camptracy.org)

Camp Tracy Alumni are ready to help you afford camp this summer!

Apply for a partial or full scholarship for weeks 6-10 of Camp Tracy by the deadline of June 30, 2020.

Send Completed Applications to CampTracyAlumni@gmail.com, or mail to Will Barlock, 267 Concord St West, Portland, ME 04103. Applications are available on the Camp Tracy website.

Local libraries begin to re-open with limitations

Waiting for curbside pickup in Palermo. (photo by Andy Pottle)

Palermo Community Library curbside pick-up service begins

As we navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic, the first phase of reopening the Palermo Community Library is to offer curbside pickup beginning Saturday, June 20, 2020. To protect the safety of our staff and patrons, the library will be following the guidelines of the Maine State Library and Maine CDC. Staff will wear masks and gloves while preparing your bags for check-out. Patrons and staff are expected to respect social distancing recommendations.

Procedure for pickup (see detailed description under ‘policies’ on website):

  1.  Visit the library website at www.palermo.lib.me.us to search the library’s catalog for the books, DVDs, and other materials you’d like to check out.
  2.  Email your request to palermo@palermo.lib.me.us by Wednesday for a Saturday pickup.
  3.  Come to the library between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday to pick up the items you are checking out. When you arrive, call 993-6088 and they’ll bring out your bag of books and place it on the front stoop for you to pick up.
  4.  Return library items to outdoor book drop when you are finished. All returned library materials will be quarantined for 72 hours and then sanitized.

In the meantime, the trustees are working hard to prepare for the next phase of reopening by installing plexiglass hygiene barriers, providing a deep thorough cleaning of the library’s interior, and writing policies that will protect the health and safety of our staff and patrons. Hope to see you soon!

Vassalboro public library re-opens

photo: vassalboro.net

The Vassalboro Public Library is reopened to the public during their regular hours. Monday and Friday noon – 6 p.m., and Wednesday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. They have a new ongoing book sale room that is open to the public. They will also host a partially virtual summer reading program for all ages. Please check their website for the Covid-19 policies.

Oakland public librarry is open

The Oakland Public Library is now open. You may check out books, magazines and movies. There is a 30-minute time limit on visits, with a five item limit on loans. Computers are available.

Hand sanitizers are available upon entering and also at the service desks. Masks that cover the nose and mouth must be worn, and patrons must observe 6 foot physical distancing.

Hours are: Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Wed., Thurs., Fri. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

For more information, call 465-7533.

Albion library will fill book orders

Albion Public Library

The Albion Public Library will fill orders for books, audio books and DVDs. Simply go online to the Town of Albion website: townofalbionmaine.com, click on local links, Albion library, online, display.

Or, log-in: first initial and last name, patron #. Ex.: rmorin,123.

You can browse the materials they have in the library.

To order, they will need the author and title of the book, audio book or DVD.

Send this to bertajanc@roadrunner.com.

Be sure to include your telephone number. They will fill your order and make an appointment with you for pick up.

FISHY PHOTO: Bassin’ through the ice

Hunter Hallee, 13, of Rome, caught this bass while ice fishing on McGrath Pond, in Oakland, on Sunday, February 23, with his maternal grandfather, Terry Greenleaf, of Oakland, and Hunter’s sister, Megan.

Students named to Champlain College dean’s list for Fall 2019 Semester

The following students have been named to the Champlain College dean’s list, in Burlington, Vermont, for achieving a grade point average of 3.5 or higher in the Fall 2019 semester.

Jacob Buzzell, of Oakland, and Benjamin Voter, of Cornville.

RSU #18 gifted and talented hard at work

These RSU #18 gifted and talented students are hard at work on their spring project, Find a Need, Fill a Need. (photo courtesy of Mandi Favreau)

by Mandi Favreau

RSU #18 Middle School Gifted and Talented students have been hard at work on their spring project, “Find a Need, Fill a Need.” Student teams are tasked with finding a need and then designing and building an adaptive device that helps increase independence or enhances quality of life for a person facing a physical or cognitive challenge due to a disability or increased age.

The project was launched with a district-wide GT workshop at MMS on January 17, with presentations by Occupational Therapist Heather Kerner, Thomas College Pre-service Teacher Alissah Paquette, and New Hampshire engineers Alex and Alec Cobban. The Design/Stem challenge really encourages empathy and problem-solving for students and walks them through the engineering design process of identifying the problem/need, exploring the background of the need and how it might be addressed, designing the device, creating, testing, and improving it.

“I like this project because it is people helping people,” said MMS student, Nar Peterson.  Classmate Elise MacDonald added that “ it can help children enjoy the (Easter) holiday more and give them new experiences.”

Students have already chosen their topics and completed their research. Currently, students are templating designs, researching cost-effective materials, and reviewing possible obstacles. “I am witnessing intense discussions and enthusiastic sharing of ideas,” said GT teacher Tamiko Paquette. “Students are really trying to put themselves in the place of their “client” to really feel that it might be like to have to cope with the differing ability.”

After vacation, students will begin creating prototypes for testing.  They will be presenting their completed projects at a Parent Showcase on March 26, from 6 – 7 p.m., at the MMS Library.