Madison Bailey sits at the Steinway grand piano upon the stage of Elizabeth City State University’s Fine Arts Auditorium. She is rehearsing her recital piece, preparing for a Saturday performance, as Roosevelt Newson coaches from the seats in the audience.
Bailey is one of the students who have participated in the Community Music School’s inaugural year. She is one of many students who will be performing in an end-of-the-year recital Saturday, 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium.
“It’s been a reasonably good year,” says Newson, Community Music School founder. “We’ve learned a lot about the community. We’ve had fairly good involvement from the community.”
Newson, who is the chair of the ECSU music department, founded the school last year. It’s something he’s done in the past, at other universities, such Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory.
The purpose of the school is to provide students ages seven to 70 with the opportunity to learn voice, or a variety of instruments, music theory, and performance, preparing many of them for study at the university level.
In fact, one of the school’s first students, Hunter Breake of Kitty Hawk, landed a scholarship to study piano at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, according to Newson.
About one year ago, Newson announced that the school was being considered and would be launched in the fall. The only drawback then was finding a director, but that was soon solved when his wife, Rae Newson — she’s a former educator and Peabody Conservatory concert coordinator — agreed to take on the job.
Once the director’s position was filled, Newson worked to build the faculty. He reached out to area musicians and music educators to build a roster of teachers that cover the range from voice, to strings to percussion.
The faculty currently listed with the school is:
• Piano: Dennis Figgs, Whitney Divers
• Brass: Wayne James;
• Guitar: Steven Raisor, Whitney Divers;
• Voice: Whitney Divers, Dennis Figgs, Andrea Morris;
• Strings: KC James, Kareh Nixon;
• Flute/Woodwinds: Lynn Smith;
• Brass: Michael Self;
• Choir: Dennis Figgs;
• Percussion: Dan Gonko.
Next, to get the school launched, Newson said they needed at least 50 students signed for classes. That happened and things started to evolve from there.
The purpose of the school is to provide comprehensive music education to the community. With that goal being achieved, the next step is to show off that education with this recital.
It features “Most of the students who are enrolled in the Community School,” says Newson. “They are pianists, singers, a number of violinists, and percussionists.”
There will also be the debut of the Community School choir, a small group of about 10 students under the direction of Dennis Figgs.
“For many of them, it will be their very first recital appearance ever,” says Newson of the students who will perform Saturday.
The program runs with the public school calendar. That means that after this recital, there will be a break until the fall semester.
When the school gets going in the fall, Newson says he is looking forward to a successful second year, with more students.
He says the school’s tuition is on par with other area organizations, but that the lack of a tuition payment plan might have prohibited some people from enrolling.
The school, he says, is working on changing that for the next year.
As the school grows, there will be more opportunity for a broader range of music students. Currently, however, the school is limited simply by the number of students and the demands they bring to school.
For more information about the school, call 252-335-3359.