Each winter for the past four years, dozens of middle school musicians from around the Upper Valley have given up their Saturday mornings for up to two months to be part of the Hop’s Dartmouth Youth Winds Ensemble. Led by the Hop’s Director of Bands Matthew M. Marsit, Youth Winds brings together musicians in grades 6-8 to practice and perform alongside Dartmouth student musicians, most from the highly accomplished Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble. This year, 30 students took the plunge, from Lebanon, Hanover, Grafton, Norwich, Canaan and Sunapee in New Hampshire and Hartford, Windsor, Hartland, Woodstock, South Royalton, Thetford and Brownsville in Vermont. They rehearsed January 21-March 4 from 9:30-11:30 am in the Hartman rehearsal room in the Hop, then held a dress rehearsal and performance on March 4 on the Spaulding stage.
South Royalton School is new this year. For the past several years, music-minded middle school students at the K-12 school have been seeing posters about the Youth Winds program. This year, they finally joined in, having the right combination of motivated students and parents. South Royalton music teacher Kate Liptak said the participating students created quite the buzz about the program and that more will want to attend next year. She mentioned how they proudly brought in their packet of music to band practice to show everyone what music they were working on.
Marsit created Youth Winds as a way to reach out to Upper Valley young people and families and to engage his Dartmouth students in actively giving back to the community. The program is strengthened by Marsit’s strong ties to music educators in Upper Valley schools, some of whom also play in the DCWE.
The Dartmouth Youth Wind Ensemble is supported in part by the Hop’s Community Venture Initiative (CVI), which provides new opportunities for Upper Valley residents of all ages to create, access and explore the arts. The Community Venture Initiative is funded by Jane and Peter McLaughlin and the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation. One of CVI’s goals is to engage young people in the arts at a critical time in their development–academically, socially, emotionally. Other CVI programs have involved creating visual art, poetry and films.