By David Johnson, News Editor
Harbor Country News, published March 26, 2014
NEW BUFFALO — About 25 students from the School of American Music got to show what they’ve learned so far during a March 21 Community Concert at Water’s Edge United Methodist Church in New Buffalo.
School of American Music founder, Board President and guitar instructor Garth Taylor noted prior to the concert that such events were very much in keeping with the institution’s philosophy to “train for performance.” He noted that musicians use three times the brain cells to make music while listening to other performers as they play and developing their personality as a performer.
With 25 students performing, Taylor quipped they should have organized a three-day festival on a farm in upstate New York.
The free “come-one, come-all family event for area residents” opened with a rendition of “Wagon Wheel” by the Three Muses (guitarists Meredith Blake and Abby Folsom along with fiddle player Hannah Korbel) with Garth Taylor singing and also playing guitar.
Also making music during the first half of the well-atttended show were Keegan Stocks-McElligott, Julie Maddox, Amandin DeSimone, Felix DeSimone and two of the school’s adult students (Robert Kulchawik and David Johnson) with Taylor again joining in for three tunes (Jug Band Music, Matchbox Blues and You Never Can Tell, with the finale sparking some dancing in the front row).
After a brief intermission Israel Ashby played “Iron Man” on the electric guitar and The Samurai Strings made the first of two appearances. The group includes Annika Hokanson, Jeacy Corzine, Annabelle Yanz, Hattie Folsom, Connor Stocks-McElligott, Sophia Helmuth and Ashby.
Several members of the Samurai Strings and the Three Muses also performed as solo acts, along with Levi Ashby, Marjolaine DeSimone and Merrilee McGuigan.
In addition to Garth Taylor, the student performers were helped along and/or accompanied by Priscilla Hellenga, Amanda Barber, Alyson Payne and Bill Taylor.
“I’m learning a lot more different stuff on guitar,” said Ashby, a high school sophomore. “It’s a lot of fun to rock out with my teacher (Bill Taylor) and my colleagues.”
Hellenga noted that there were so many young musicians lined up to perform (twice as many as last year she later said) that the school’s Upstairs on Elm staff band had to take a pass.
“That’s OK, it’s for the kids no matter what,” she said. “It’s always for the kids.”
“I learned how to play a lot of different notes — and I’ve learned two songs so far and I’m working on another one,” said Corzine, a fifth-grader who takes guitar and voice lessons with Hellenga.
The school’s instructors also include: Amanda Barber (violin, piano, voice); Daniel McDonough (piano); Gerry Muncey (piano); Alyson Payne (voice); and Nathan Thomas (piano and guitar).
According to the community concert program, the school has served about 50 students over the past 12 months.
Hellenga said an anonymous donor has allowed the school to offer three scholarships (for $1,000, $500 and $200) for River Valley High School seniors or local home-schooled students. They will be awarded based on a judged music recital scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. May 6 at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks.
The school also is planning a Saturday evening Song Circle to offer students, parents and “music hackers” a chance to get together and share their inspirations.
Also on the horizon is a joint performance with the River Valley High School Choir during its Spring Concert, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 14.
The School of American Music, which features one-on-one sessions between the student and a skilled instructor, began operations in February 2012 on the second floor of the Three Oaks Public Library at 3 North Elm St. It is a 501c non-profit organization.
The school, which teaches all ages and offers classes in many instruments, is “committed to affordable music education, charging below-market rates for instruction and offering scholarships to students who make progress but are unable to afford tuition.”