URI community music programs name change resonates with participants

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KINGSTON, R.I. – January 11, 2011 – A mother and her four-year-old son sit side-by-side in front of a keyboard in the piano lab of the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, picking out a tune following the directions of their teacher, Christine Müller. Müller is teaching “Four Hands Together,” an 8-week parent-child piano class offered by URI’s newly renamed Community Music Program. The popular Saturday morning class, which starts again on January 29, is just one of many classes and private instruction opportunities offered by this little-known part of the URI Music Department, which has changed its name to improve both its public visibility and perception of its mission.

“The original name was the Pre-College and Adult Music Education Division, which is an accurate description of what we do, but is a mouthful,” explains Jane Murray, the URI Music Faculty member who directs the program. “That was shortened to the Preparatory Program, or ‘Prep Program’ for short, because most colleges call it that, but –preparing for what? What we do is talent development, but nobody calls it that. This is a change that needed to happen.”

The program offers the community private lessons in most instruments and voice, classes in piano for young children and beginning adults, and summer camps for school-aged string and jazz musicians. As municipal budget cutbacks begin to affect public school music programs, the need for such alternatives for young musicians continues to grow.

In its 34th year, the program serves a wide range of the South County and West Bay community, from the general public to families connected to the university through faculty or staff. “Our youngest students are 4 or 5 years old,” says Murray. “We have a large number of middle school and high school-aged students, as well as college students who want to study an instrument but not major in music. We have retirees who always wanted to learn to play an instrument and now have time. Our new name better reflects our mission to provide high quality musical experiences for everyone in the community.”

Registration for all classes is available on the program’s website, along with more information on costs and available opportunities. The winter session piano class for Beginning Adults starts Wednesday, January 26, and meets from 7 – 8:15 p.m. The “Four Hands Together” class runs from 9:15-10:15 a.m. on Saturdays. Late registrations for group classes are not permissible without permission from the instructor. Private instruction can be started at any time as long as the instructors have openings available, and costs vary depending on the education level of the instructors, so a range is offered. Lessons are offered year round.

“We have always tried to keep the program affordable,” says Murray. “One way we do that is to have a three-tiered teaching system, which basically boils down to undergraduate music majors teaching at the base level, graduate students at the middle level, and Community Music Division faculty at the third level, who may be URI faculty artists or highly experienced area music professionals. We offer faculty who are exceptionally committed and really care.”

What common misconceptions about the program would Murray like to lay to rest? “It’s not just for kids, and it’s not just taught by students,” Murray says. She hopes the name change will make the program easier for people to find, understand, and benefit from.

For more information, please check the website: www.uri.edu/communitymusic, or contact the Community Music Program at the URI Department of Music, 874-2798.