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After-school program spreads tunes in Manitou

October 19, 2012

The music starts shortly after school days end in Manitou Springs School District 14.

Notes spill into the hallways of the district’s Shared Integrated Learning Center as Fine Arts Institute @ Manitou students pick up instruments to polish their skills in small groups.

“I can come here and practice without being afraid of mistakes,” said 12-year-old Madeline Butts, a Manitou Springs seventh-grader.

She was participating in music jam, a session led by an instructor that gives students a chance to not only play familiar instruments, but try out new things.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to play drums,” said Jonathon Harmor, 17, a Manitou Springs high School junior. He also plays tenor saxophone and flute.

As the mixed-instrument group performed together, occasionally breaking out with solo performances, other students in other rooms were coached.

Fine Arts Institute @ Manitou students are in kindergarten through the 12th grade. Except for music jam and choir, groups of about five or so students focus on a single instrument in hourlong sessions.

“I play a lot of instruments,” said 9-year-old Lanie Thomas, Ute Pass Elementary third-grader. “I really like playing guitar, it’s fun.”

The program is in its second year, and participation has increased dramatically. From the 30 or so students in the first year, the program now has more than 80 students.

The program now runs four days a week, longer than in the first year because more time was needed to cover everything, Killian said.

“It’s amazing how much they learn,” said 20-year-old Sam Wachtler, who teaches guitar and piano. The challenge, he said, is to keep the kids focused and interested.

Most of the students attend D-14 schools, and students from other campuses such as Ute Pass Elementary catch a bus to the music sessions.

“It makes a huge difference in life,” said FAIM director Ray Killian, who also teaches part time at Ute Pass.

Music skills can help kids with social, academic and thinking skills, he said. Offering after-school classes allows students more practice time, as well as the chance to dive more deeply into music reading and theory.

It’s also a good way to introduce students to different instruments, Killian said. A fundraiser is planned to the help purchase electronic roll-out pianos so students can learn in class and take them home for practice.

Students pay $100 per semester to participate, which works out to about $10 a lesson. Scholarships are available, Killian said.

The school district supports the program, offering space, instruments and funding for instructors.

“There’s a lot of things you can cut out, but art and music are not among them,” D-14 Superintendent Ed Longfield said. “We’ve been prudent with our resources so we can pay for things like that.”

The program also fits in with the district’s mission to connect kids to good experiences and role models. FAIM is just one of the after-school options offered at the four D-14 schools.

“I really wanted to connect kids to something positive after school,” Longfield said.

FAIM started as an idea to enhance music offerings already available to kids in D-14 schools

“I set the stage,” Longfield said. “Then I turned it over to people who make things happen.”

Working with local talent isn’t new for the small district, which works with community instructors to bring things like dance, karate and yoga to schools.

There’s about 1,500 students in the district, and D-14 has been at capacity for about two years.

“We have a little jewel here,” Longfield said.

The kids are sold on the program, and staying longer at school is a treat.

“I like playing music,” said 10-year-old Melissa MacDonald, Ute Pass Elementary fifth-grader.

The Fine Arts Institute @ Manitou is having a fundraiser 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at the Manitou Springs Subway, 302 Manitou Ave. A portion of the receipts collected that night will benefit the after-school program.

Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina Facebook Kristina Iodice

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