Program Brings Music Scholarships to Alachua County Children

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FMM at Metcalfe elementary
Fae Nageon de Lestang of Flat Land and Dean Spaniol of Bells & Robes sit with students at Metcalfe Elementary during an afterschool program.

In April of this year, Future Music Makers Youth Enrichment Program (FMM) received an award of $15,000 to begin their efforts to bring music to the students of Alachua County.

The group, made up of local Gainesville band Flat Land, electronic duo Bells & Robes, and a local marketing and special events consulting firm Phairground, has been able to take their initial funding and lay the groundwork for their entire organization.

This weekend they will be holding their first fundraiser to help provide scholarships for six months of free music lessons. Any student in Alachua County 18-years-old or younger can apply for one of these scholarships. Applications are on the group’s website and the deadline to apply is Dec. 18.

The event begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday at The JAM: Gainesville and will feature different artists and musicians. The $10 entrance fee, as well as proceeds from the raffle will go towards the scholarship fund. There will be food trucks and vendors at the event as well, who will be donating a portion of their proceeds to the group’s fund.

Fae Nageon de Lestang, violinist and vocalist for Flat Land said that the goal is for the benefit to fund four scholarships, but FMM will definitely be giving away two.

“I think we realized that all of us had the opportunity to study privately, and that really helped us to hone in on the things we needed to work on and develop our skill sets,” she said. “We wanted to be able to provide that opportunity to a kid that might not necessarily have that.”

The band has estimated that one scholarship will be valued between $550 to $600. Nageon de Lestang said that the cost depends on the kind of lessons a child wants. FMM has a network of local musicians and instructors that they will work with to pair children with a teacher.

Aside from their scholarship program, FMM has been able to develop its after school programs. Nageon de Lestang said that the group has been learning a lot in the last six months.

“We’ve actually gotten a lot of support from the community, which has been great,” she said. “We’ve developed a lot of partnerships with different organizations around town as well as schools in the area and the Alachua County School Board.”

They have partnered with a few local schools, but Nageon de Lestang said that their pilot project has been their partnership with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Elementary School in East Gainesville. The school, in their first year as a fine arts magnet, lets the children pick different instruments and focuses to study.

“We’ve gone in with them and we’re [going to do] doing monthly workshops with theirs kids, we’ve just started to do that,” she said. “That is kind of where we’re focusing most of our energy right now.”

Sharon Kuchinski, fine arts coordinator at Rawlings, said that FMM reached out to the school and she thought they would be a great asset to the new arts program. Students are exposed to all the different programs offered, such as music, art and theatre, and then the fourth and fifth graders choose a specific focus.

“What I want is that connection between the professional musicians and the students,” she said. “Sometimes students get frustrated if they pick up a guitar and realize they aren’t going to learn it in a week.”

She said she hopes that by interacting with professional musicians, the students will be able to see what it takes to get where they want to be and will be encouraged to continue.

Kuchinski said that FMM came in before Thanksgiving break and did an assembly for the students. The music they were playing was unlike the rap and other popular music the children are exposed to and she felt that some probably had never heard anything like it before.

Once a few students began dancing, though, Kuchinski said she knew the group would be a good fit.

“And it was like, ‘that’s it, that’s exactly what we want, that kind of connection.’ ” she said.

Kuchinski and FMM are now beginning to set up master classes that will be offered to the older focus students. Kuchinski said that the courses will be both small and large group sessions and they will also be offered to children whose focus is not music.

She hopes that through FMM’s partnership with Rawlings and the success of their students, other schools will see how beneficial FMM’s program is for children.

“I think they’re a great example of how musicians can contribute to our community, and I think that’s what our children need to see,” she said.

About Jessica Hundley

Jessica is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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