Music in the Smallest of Places

Dream big!  That is what Adam Metzler did.  Adam is a high school band teacher for the Central Aroostook Jr./Sr. High School.  Here he would fulfill his dream.

“I’ve always dreamed of rebuilding a program from scratch.  It was small, but the enthusiasm was there,” Adam said.

The teacher before him drove the program into the ground.  Only six students were left to work with.  Interest in music was at its lowest point before Adam got the reins.

“When a band director leaves it takes a while for the next person to build the program up,” Wendy Grass, a 38-year-veteran of CAHS, said.

Rodger Shaw, the former superintendent for CAHS, loved Adam so much, he decided to hire Adam over the phone.  Adam was excited to face the challenges a small school would bring.  His background was substitute teaching for larger programs in New York and Maine.

“I wanted to find my niche in the community.  Getting used to a small school mindset, I had to change my thinking,” Adam said.

Adam subbed for programs in Geneseo and Caledonia-Mumford based in New York and Old Town in Maine.  Having work connections in New York, Adam believed it would be easier to find a full-time job in the Empire State.

“After spending a few years substitute teaching and no luck finding a job, my wife and I realized we missed Maine,” Adam said.

Growing up, Adam had a family cottage on the coast of Maine.  He has many fond memories of the summers on the coast and from the University of Maine in Orono.

Adam was like any typical band student.  His instrument would barely go home for practice.  He did enjoy playing in the band with all his friends.  In 10th grade, his teacher wanted him to audition for All-County in New York.  It is like the program All-Aroostook here in northern Maine.

“I wasn’t one to make myself look bad, so I started practicing and as I became better, I realized how much fun I was having,” Adam said.

On his first audition, Adam was accepted into the group.  It snowballed from there.  He kept playing and getting into better groups.  Before he knew it, Adam wanted to be a music teacher.

Subbing for schools that had larger music programs did not prepare him for challenges that a small school would bring.  Scheduling is one of those challenges.  Others were a small budget, working with old instruments and small numbers.

“It’s hard to get students interested in playing a baritone saxophone.  I was able to work a deal with KMH music, and I was able to trade in the sax for four new clarinets,” Adam said.

Some students will buy their own instruments.  Not all who do this will continue to play and have donated them to the school.

One way Adam is keeping his students’ interest is with a new program he calls Band Karate.  Band Karate replaces the old program of practice time logs and gives the students something to work for.  In his band room, Adam has colored belts up on the wall.  Students will have their names on popsicle sticks and after meeting goals, their name will move from a white belt and can work up to a black belt.

“It turns into a game and gives accountability to practice,” Adam said.

By the time students reach seventh grade, Adam suggests that they look for alternatives.  Not to discourage them, he offers other options and will accept anyone who shows the willingness to learn.  This is the first year of Band Karate and it generates excitement in his students.

Students are also excited about the brass ensemble, Mnozil Brass, that he took his students to see.  Many of them are still talking about it.  Mnozil Brass is a world-class group that mixes music, comedy and choreography to entertain any who would watch.

Adam may not be in a world-class group yet, but all in the local community can see him play.  He has trumpets in the Northern Maine Chamber Society Orchestra, UMPI/Community Band and the Star City Syndicate.

Many are excited about the program as it continues to grow.  Adam hopes that what he is doing will keep students interested in music for the rest of their lives.  He is just doing his part for the music community and keeping a time-treasured skill alive and well in a small town.