Caitlin Ramsey offering a recent remote learning lesson for her band students at Cape Elizabeth Middle School. Ramsey is the recipient of the 2020 Maine Music Educator of the Year Courtesy / Caitlin Ramsey

CAPE ELIZABETH —  In a different kind of concert prompted by the pandemic, Caitlin Ramsey got into her car for a drive around Cape Elizabeth on May 21 to hear her students playing music during “Cape Elizabeth Porch Fest,” when band students played pieces of their choice for anyone who cared to listen.

And Ramsey made sure she saw and heard all her current and former students performing on their front porches and lawns.

Given the pandemic, a more traditional band concert was not possible, so instead Ramsey, Cape Elizabeth Middle School’s band teacher, helped arrange the unique concert.

“It was really special,” she recalled this week. “I’d only seen them on a screen for (the past) 11 weeks.”

Ramsey’s dedication to her kids is one reason her colleagues and students agreed this week that she deserved being named 2020 Maine Music Educator of the Year by the Maine Music Educators Association.

According to a news release from the association, release, the award gives recognition “for exceptional support and outstanding accomplishments by one or more … members to the advancement of music education in the schools of Maine.”

A native of central Maine, Ramsey, 38, now lives in Portland with her husband, Tim Eversold, band director at Gorham High School. Ramsey said she comes from a family of teachers, and has fond memories of going to music festivals in the summer. From a young age, she was fascinated with everything from classical music to her parents’ Beatles records.

“There was always music around,” she said.

Ramsey also took piano lessons as a child, and the love of playing music stuck with her – so much so that when she was in fourth grade and her father brought home a French horn for her to try out it became her favorite instrument.

Caitlin Ramsey, band teacher at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, gives a lesson in class in this undated photo. Ramsey is the recipient of the 2020 Maine Music Educator of the Year award. Credit: Emily LeBorgne

“It was just part of what I did,” she said.

After graduating from Skowhegan Area High School, Ramsey received her dual bachelor’s degree in music education and horn performance at Miami University in 2003. Later, she earned her master’s degree in music education from Kent State University in 2016.

She taught at Willard School in Sanford and at Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro before coming to Cape Elizabeth, where she’s been for the past 10 years. Right now, she said, there are about 300 kids involved in the middle school band program, more than 60% of the student body.

“I get them as students who can’t make a sound on their instruments, and my goal is to have them not need me, to be independent,” she said.

Those who know Ramsey credit the high interest in band to her efforts.

“Caitlin represents everything that is great about being a teacher,” said Principal Troy Eastman. “Caitlin can be found in the band room working with students an hour before school and an hour after school on most days. Students know that Caitlin is there for them as people first and band students second.”

Emily LeBorgne, music and chorus teacher at the school, was the colleague who nominated Ramsey for the award, and said Ramsey is popular among the kids.

“They just so badly want to be in her class,” she said.

LeBorgne said Ramsey has worked from the beginning to integrate and align music and band classes, which had been taught separately. Ramsey also runs a Facebook group where she collaborates with other band directors outside of Cape Elizabeth, LeBorgne said.

“She is just unstoppable when it comes to band,” she said.

LeBorgne, who has worked with Ramsey for the past three years, nominated her with the help of 14 letters of support from students and parents. Sophia Toon, 14, who recently graduated from the middle school, said she has fond memories of Ramsey’s support since first meeting her in the fourth grade.

“Mrs. Ramsey has helped me be a better student and person,” she said. “Her door is always open, whether it be for advice on composing, because I need someone to talk to, share a joke or help on my science projects! I will miss her very much next year.”

Kathryne Clay, another former student, may be beginning her junior year at Cape Elizabeth High School this fall, but she still turns to Ramsey with music-related questions.

“She’s still influential in my life,” she said.

Her brother, Nathaniel, who was also a former student of Ramsey’s and is now entering his junior year at Berklee College of Music in Boston, convinced Clay that Ramsey’s classes were a lot of fun.

“He always came home with funny stories about her in class,” she said.

Clay said Ramsey is a big part of the reason why, in seventh grade, she decided she wanted to be a music teacher herself.

“She helps you grow, and I want to do that for kids,” she said.

Clay’s mother, Robyn Clay, said she and her husband are not musically inclined, and gives Ramsey all the credit for developing her kids’ interest, talent and skill.

“She’s been a tremendous influence on them,” she said.

Nathaniel, Mrs. Clay said, was in Ramsey’s first class at the school. In just a few short years, his class asked Ramsey to be the speaker for their middle school graduation ceremony.

“It to me kind of said a lot about what she meant,” Robyn Clay said.

Kathryne Clay also took part in the “porch fest” concert, playing several pieces on tenor sax, including a rendition of  Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” with a neighbor and classmate, who played baritone sax. Robyn Clay said it was amazing to hear, and to see the whole neighborhood come out to listen.

“It brought me chills,” she said. “The whole neighborhood, you could hear different kids playing different instruments.”

And, of course, Ramsey came to watch, and listen, from her car. Mrs. Clay said it was obvious how moved Ramsey was, watching Kathryne playing.

“You could just see the joy in her face,” she said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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