DEXTER, Maine — “One, two, three …,” Chris Prickitt calls out and a group of high school students gathered Thursday in a back room in Dexter Middle School starts picking and strumming.
It’s after school and it’s practice time for The Abbott Hill Ramblers. Their bluegrass and American roots music fills the air in the hallway and filters into the empty classrooms. It’s obvious the students enjoy their music as some tap their feet to the beat while others smile as they lean toward one another to sing the lyrics to the songs.
It’s fun, but it’s also serious business for the 13-member band, which recently cut a new CD called “It Can’t Be Stopped.” To recognize that milestone, the group will hold a free celebration concert at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, at Dexter Middle School. Refreshments will be served.
Prickitt, the band director, said the latest compact disc, the fifth released by the band, is one of its best efforts.
“We almost got a tearful reaction from one of the guys who wrote one of the songs included on the CD,” he said Thursday. Robert Gateley, who wrote “Heat of the Morning” and who was provided a copy of the CD, told Prickitt in an e-mail that he was in awe of the entire album, Prickitt said.
Prickitt, a Dexter Middle School teacher and member of the popular band Evergreen, is in his ninth year as director. He started the band in 2000 with funding from a Century 21 grant designed to promote after-school activities. When that funding dried up, the Bluegrass Music Association of Maine stepped in with funding until SAD 46 endorsed the band as a school-sponsored activity, Prickitt said.
While Prickitt has remained the director over the years, the composition of his band has changed from year to year. Positions left vacant by graduating seniors are filled by freshmen who quickly adapt to the group.
Prickitt said he loves working with the band. “It energizes me,” he said.
It also energizes and inspires the students, according to student Jane Strauch. She said the band has taken her to new places, has allowed her to meet other musicians and has exposed her to all types of music.
For student Moriah Day, the band has helped her overcome her shyness. She said it has made it easier for her to stand up in front of crowds and make presentations.
Danielle Iverson said participating in the group has allowed her to meet a lot of people, and Jacob White, who is home-schooled and in his third year with the band, said he has enjoyed it.
Some of the band members also volunteer their time instructing the younger Abbott Hill Wanderers band, also directed by Prickitt, in addition to performing in about 20 shows each year.
In addition to the free concert in Dexter, the band will perform in concert at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Old Town. Prickitt said the band also is looking for more engagements. The band’s music is entertainment for all ages and occasions, he said. Prickitt said the group also can tailor the shows to include an educational component and can offer instrument and vocal workshops for students.
For more information on the band or the CD, go to abbotthillramblers.com or e-mail Prickitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.