Caitlin Ramsey, band director at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, has one the 2020 Maine Music Educators Association Music Educator of the Year Award. She and retired middle school band director Terry White received recognition from the organization. Courtesy photo of Caitlin Ramsey

CAPE ELIZABETH — The music program at Cape Elizabeth Middle School received four different awards this year, two for previous and past teachers’ accomplishments, and two for the entire department’s work.

Caitlin Ramsey, band director at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, received the 2020 Maine Music Educators Association Educator of the Year Award.

Having been at Cape Elizabeth for the past 10 years, Ramsey said that she was humbled and honored to be the recognized by the MMEA this year.

“There are a lot of dedicated and hardworking music teachers in the state,” she said. “It was nice to be a recipient. I received it along with Dr. Phil Edelman from UMaine.”

Mike Scarpone, band director at Cape Elizabeth High School, called Ramsey a “kid magnet,” saying that she does a great job of preparing students for ninth grade and up.

“I think like any other teacher, we work on fundamentals all the way up,” Ramsey said. “My goal is to make them independent. By the time they get to eighth grade, my goal is for them to not really need me anymore. While they might not get something right away, they can sit down and work on it and have the tools.”

The recipient of the 2020 MMEA Hall of Fame Award was Terry White, retired band director at Cape Elizabeth Middle School.

The music program as a whole also received state and national attention, winning the 2020 Dale F. Huff Outstanding Music Program Award and the NAMM Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education National Designation 2020 for the fifth year in a row, according to information provided by Emily LeBorgne, middle school music and chorus teacher.

Mike Scarpone, band director for Cape Elizabeth High School, nominated the district for the Dale F. Huff Award, he said.

“Dale is a retired music educator,” he said. “He taught all over (Maine) and he was pretty legendary. His son Scott Hoff plays music, and he started the award to recognize outstanding music programs in the state. He had a huge legacy. That kind of recognizes not just the people teaching, but also the community.”

Ramsey, Scarpone, and Rebecca Bean, Pond Cove music teacher, all said that the program wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the support of parents and other faculty.

“It’s been a really supportive community that has a value in music,” Ramsey said. “That’s not the case everywhere you go. Parents are so kind and appreciative. I get lovely emails from parents all the time, and they really want to see these programs in our schools.”

From kindergarten through grade 12, Cape Elizabeth schools do a wonderful job of not letting music students “fall through the cracks,” Bean said.

“(The teachers) meet regularly and make sure there’s an a lot we work on with the program,” she said. “It’s a very comprehensive program. I talk to the general music and chorus teacher at the middle school, and she works with Pond Cove chorus kids so they’re ready to go to the middle school.”

Students at Pond Cove receive a hands-on music education, Bean added, getting to play various instruments in music class until they’re able to start playing band in fifth grade.

Pond Cove students receive a “hands-on” music education, said music teacher Rebecca Bean. Courtesy photo of Rebecca Bean

Over 400 students in grades five through 12 play in band, Scarpone said.

“So far teaching Cape has been rewarding in so many ways,” he said. “The faculty is second to none, and they’re all so great and so welcoming. The best part of the department is that we work well together. We try to develop a cohesive alignment for all students. The kids have been so welcoming … The support with the administration and faculty is really second to none.”

Scarpone and Ramsey are setting up a mentoring program called Band Buddies, they said. Middle school band students will receive additional support from high school band students.

“It’s one thing to hear something from your teacher and another thing to hear it from someone you look up to who may live down the street,” Ramsey said. “It’s easy to get stuck in your own grade level, but seeing other students who are older, it gives them something to look forward to and obtain, and when they go out around town they can be like, ‘Oh, I know that person.'”

The two teachers also want to start a band camp at the beginning of August, but details of that aren’t yet clear as access to the school building is limited with COVID-19 restrictions and concerns, Scarpone said.

With the shake-up in schedules after the COVID-19 situation began and cancellations of spring concerts, the music department has been working with students to try and find ways to keep them motivated and engaged, Ramsey said.

“My goal is just to keep our program going, our students going forward,” she said.

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