OLD TOWN — Each year, Shianne Priest, music director at Leonard Middle School, uses one of her seventh-grade music appreciation classes to teach the curriculum through a service learning project to raise funds and awareness for a nonprofit organization.
The curriculum, she said, helps teach children the principles of democracy and the power of having a voice in a hands-on approach to music appreciation. Students make all decisions, including which organization to help raise awareness about.
This year, the Old Town seventh-graders chose to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine. In doing so, they will support its current campaign, Season of Wishes. The goal of the Wishes campaign is to raise $90,000 before the end of the year in order to grant wishes to 15 children in Maine. To the students, Priest said, Make-A-Wish represents hope, because people wish on stars. The nonprofit’s mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
“The students have lots of great ideas when it comes to raising awareness through music,” Priest said. “They decided they wanted to write a song about the strength and courage it takes to live with a disease as a child.”
However, this year’s seventh-graders were missing a key element — Lily Muscatell. Lily, now 14 and a freshman in high school, was known around the middle school as a musical person. She always had her guitar with her and had been students’ go-to person for music.
“Usually all my spare time is taken by music,” Lily said. “Playing guitar, writing and singing.”
Last year, Lily wrote a song from the point of view of a person living with AIDS for Priest’s class. Lily’s song was professionally recorded and mass-produced on CDs that the students sold to raise profits for the Elton John Aids Foundation. This year will be a similar process except the profits will be donated to Make-A-Wish for local Maine children.
When Priest told Lily that the students wanted her help again this year, Lily said it did not matter that she was in high school and that she would be more than happy to help. She said this year’s song was easier to write because “it reaches out to a broader amount of people.”
The students generated a list of quotes and themes for Lily to use as inspiration while writing the lyrics. Lily took the concepts of stars, lights and wishing to create an uplifting message in her song, she said.
The storyline focuses on the idea that there is no right or wrong dream. There is not a particular star upon which to make a wish.
“If there’s a problem in life,” Lily said, “sometimes we get blinded by the problem and can’t see anything positive. This song is about getting past the cloudy nights and rainy days and seeing the stars and the sun beyond the clouds.”
Early in the New Year, students at Nescom at Husson University in Bangor will assist with the recording of the song, Priest said. The CD will be available for purchase by February 2012 at Leonard Middle School and at businesses in Old Town. To order copies of the CD or for information, email Priest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Lily and/or the seventh-grade class are willing to sing all or part of their song on TV or radio, Priest said.
For more ways to support the Foundation or Season of Wishes, visit maine.wish.org.