BANGOR, Maine — A concert promoter, a redemption company, a car dealer and a bank have joined forces to help music programs survive and thrive in Maine schools.
This is the debut year of the Music Matters program in Maine. By collecting bottles and cans, organizers are working to raise $12,000 to help 12 Maine schools maintain and grow their music programs in spite of budget struggles in their communities.
The effort was launched by Waterfront Concerts, CLYNK, Darling’s Auto and Machias Savings Bank. Since fundraising started during the Ed Sheeran concert in Bangor on May 24, they’ve reached $8,750 in donations, with six more concerts scheduled through October.
“We all have a common vision of putting as much back into music education as we can,” said Chris Rudolph of Waterfront Concerts.
The program works like this: CLYNK, a Maine recycling and bottle redemption company that operates exclusively in Hannaford supermarkets, sets up a booth at Waterfront Concerts shows in Bangor. A company representative passes out green bags and information about the Music Matters program.
Donors take the CLYNK bag home, fill it with bottles and cans, and drop it off at any Hannaford store. The bag is marked with a code to identify it as being part of the fundraising effort. CLYNK takes care of the accounting, and the funds are put toward Music Matters.
Machias Savings Bank locations and Darling’s car dealerships also provide bags for those who want to participate in the program. Both companies have longstanding partnerships with Waterfront Concerts.
Rudolph said he’s not surprised that the fundraising effort has gained traction.
“Our fan base is pretty spectacular,” he said, adding that people understand the importance of music in education, especially as they’re leaving a concert.
That $12,000 will be split among 12 Maine music booster groups to start. Those programs are in Augusta, Bar Harbor, Brewer, Ellsworth, Old Town, Skowhegan, Bangor, Belfast, Camden, Farmington, Rockland and Waterville.
Kevin Duplisse is president of the Brewer Music Association, which will be one of the recipients of the grant. In recent years, he said there were concerns that Brewer’s school music programs could be “drastically altered” because of budget concerns. While music in Brewer has avoided major cuts, the funding from Music Matters will help grow the program, he said.
“We want to make sure it’s not just staying alive, we want to make it vibrant,” Duplisse said.
He said that while $1,000 might not sound like much for a school music program to work with, it can go a long way if used correctly.
That money can send seven students to summer music lessons, where they can improve their skills while out of school rather than losing them, he said.
“They’re going to come back and be more enthusiastic, which will motivate others around them,” Duplisse said.
That money also can help support local performances and concerts to build interest and involvement in community music programs.
Many Maine communities have been struggling with budgets in recent years. Schools with increasing operations costs and flagging enrollment figures are having to find areas to cut back. Music programs are sometimes the target for reduced staffing or funding for performances and instruments.
Organizers say they hope to grow the program next year and in years following, raising more funds for more schools. Rudolph said he’d like to more than double the fundraising goal in 2016.
“It really does show you how far a nickel can go,” Rudolph said.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at nmccrea213.