BAR HARBOR — A new, part-time music teacher has been hired at Conners Emerson School and plans are in place to spend the $26,000 for the music program approved by voters this summer.
Mount Desert Island native and jazz musician Shane Ellis will replace outgoing music teacher Joe Wainer. Ellis will take over direction of the school band and will teach instruments for grades four and up. He is looking forward to working with full-time music teacher Rebecca Edmondson, school Principal Barbara Neilly told school committee members Monday.
“I think he’ll be able to step right in and continue the programs we have,” Neilly said. “He was just excited for the job and excited to work with Rebecca. I think they will make a great team.”
School committee members unanimously approved hiring Ellis.
School officials last spring announced that they were cutting the full-time position held by Mr. Wainer for many years to a 60-percent position. Many outspoken community members protested the move, stating that they were afraid it represented the beginning of cuts to performing arts programs. Many also said that Wainer was being treated unfairly and that the move could negatively affect his livelihood.
Wainer was hired this summer as a music teacher at Ellsworth High School.
Conners Emerson officials meanwhile said that the only elimination to the music program would be music theory classes for middle school students. They have stuck by that plan in this year’s programming, with all performing arts groups kept intact.
At town meeting in June, voters moved to replace the $26,000 that had been cut from the music budget to make the position now held by Ellis into a part-time one. School officials said at the time that they would not consider making the position full-time again, but would form a committee to see how best to spend the money. Town meeting voters made clear that it should be used for music education in one form or another.
A committee consisting of Principal Neilly, school committee member Kristi Losquadro, Ellis, teacher Lynn Hanna and residents Brian Booher, Matt Hochman and Lilea Simis met five times this summer to discuss how to best use the money. Their conclusions were shared by Neilly at Monday’s school committee meeting.
According to plans, approximately one-third of the funds would be used to purchase instruments and equipment. These include $2,500 in dulcimers, $1,000 in ukuleles, $1,200 in keyboards, $1,300 for a bass, $1,600 for a xylophone and $2,000 for a 32-inch timpani.
Also planned for purchase is a new backstage curtain, at a cost of $3,000 and a sound system for concerts and dances valued at $1,720.
The balance of the funding will go toward a series of special events planned throughout the year. These include a workshop with Mount Desert Island High School music teacher Michael Remy and the high school pep band, a trip to Boston for grade-seven students which will include a show, a week-long music festival celebration with intensive instruction, a trip to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at the Collins Center in Orono, guest speakers and other, yet-to-be-planned events.
Students also will be surveyed as the school year gets underway about why they may or may not play an instrument, how music education might be improved for them and what aspects of performance they might want to get involved with, including behind-the-scenes roles.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Neilly said. “The feedback that we’re getting is that everybody is very excited with this.”