ELLSWORTH — It is Saturday morning, and Annie Painter, 17, of Bar Harbor is seated on the stage at The Grand auditorium in Ellsworth dressed in a beanie, pajama bottoms and one red and one black sneaker.
She is all business with her violin balanced on her left shoulder, her eyes steady on the conductor, Ethan Edmondson.
It is a routine weekend for members of “TEMPO,” one of only six student orchestral groups in the state with a string program. A band has woodwinds, brass and percussion. An orchestra is a string section tacked onto a band.
The young musicians are from Down East, Central and Midcoast Maine.
Painter, who is concertmistress for the group and a student at Mount Desert Island High School, is in her sixth year with the orchestra.
“It is really the only place around here where you can get a full orchestral experience,” she said. “And it’s nice to play music in such a nice space. It’s just a good time.”
TEMPO, known formally as The Eastern Maine Pops Orchestra for Young Musicians, was founded by Rebecca Edmondson, who is MDI High School’s conductor for fall musical productions.
Rebecca Edmondson, who has taught in public and private schools in Maine and Pennsylvania, has been teaching instrumental and vocal music at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor since 1990.
Another musician, Taki Ishimura of Bar Harbor, said TEMPO provides an opportunity to play outside of MDI High School.
“It brings in people from a multitude of schools,” he said. “You experience a full orchestral band.”
Danielle LeDuc of Salisbury Cove said it is informative to hear and see how other musicians play.
“It doesn’t get boring because it changes every session,” she said of the 2½-hour Saturday rehearsals. “And the music changes. Rebecca composes pieces for us to play.”
Rebecca Edmondson said TEMPO is trying to grow its group and its audience. She brings in different groups with which the students can collaborate, such as the Morita School of Dance in Hermon for a dance-themed concert.
TEMPO also recently performed a Centennial Park Music concert with music that spanned a century and was accompanied by a slide show of new and old photographs of Acadia National Park.
In January, the orchestra will perform with student actors in “Peter and the Wolf” at The Grand.
TEMPO rehearsals are held Saturdays in three, 10-week sessions from April to June, August to October and October to December.
“Most students come from schools without orchestras,” said Rebecca Edmondson. “This is when it all comes together. They apply the techniques and skills that they learned in private lessons.”
She shares the conducting with her son, Ethan Edmondson, conductor and music director at Searsport District Middle School & High School.
Ethan Edmondson, who, like his mother, studied at the University of Indiana of Pennsylvania, also plays the trumpet and cello.
He said he has watched some students in particular become “pieces and parts that I don’t know how we would operate this without them.”
“It gives the students a creative outlet, and they meet people they would not have met before,” he said. “It’s fun to see them reconnect.”
He said the students are a true ensemble, retaining their individual personalities while creating something with a single-minded goal.
Ethan Edmondson said the training also is relevant. For instance, every film being made has an orchestra, he noted.
TEMPO has contributed much to the local communities with six performances each year for the past five years.
Among other appearances, the orchestra performed an original score to a silent film that kicked off the 75th celebration at The Grand.
They performed an original score to Buster Keaton’s silent film “The General.”
TEMPO played prior to the showing of “The Marriage of Figaro” and “La Cenerentola” operas at The Grand.
TEMPO and The Bar Harbor Town Band will present a Christmas Cheer Concert at The Grand in Ellsworth on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m. Tickets costs $12 for adults, $7 for youths. Visit the box office, call 667-9500 or visit grandonline.org.
The orchestra will perform with student actors in “Peter and the Wolf” at The Grand in a Jan. 12, 10 a.m., performance for school children and a Jan. 14, 4 p.m. performance open to the public.
To learn more about TEMPO, email Rebecca Edmondson at [email protected] and visit the youth orchestra’s Facebook page.