During the first day of this year’s High School Elementary Musicianship Mentoring Association (HEMMA) program, founder and Newtown High School senior Grace Clark said the program has grown since it began last year.
“We had, I believe, 113 last year, and this year we have over 200 [students],” said Grace.
Grace explained HEMMA connects elementary students with high school-aged music mentors. Each of the high school students involved with HEMMA receives community service hours in return for mentoring elementary musicians.
“It provides them with low-cost private music lessons,” said Grace.
Grace first had the idea to create a music mentoring program when she was a sophomore at NHS, and made her idea a reality last year when applying for a Girl Scout Gold Award.
Last year, Grace said she witnessed mentors growing into “such amazing leaders and great teachers,” through the program.
Grace said 40 high school students are mentoring the 200 elementary school students involved with HEMMA this year.
When she started planning for HEMMA, Grace said her hopes were for as many as ten students to sign up for the program.
“Clearly it’s … outdone anything I ever expected,” said Grace.
To oversee HEMMA, a board was created, with Grace serving as the program’s president. Richie Sadlon serves as the vice president, Elizabeth Charash is the board’s treasurer, Emma Jane Tallon is HEMMA’s communications advisor, and Julia Preszler is the board’s scheduling advisor.
Richie said he is excited for this year’s program. “Last year we had much less people, but it is growing and it is getting better,” he added. “And hopefully by this time next year we will have way more people, too.”
Richie said guitar lessons have been popular among the elementary school students, but lessons with a range of instruments are offered, including piano, alto-saxophone, and trumpet.
“We’re covering all the bases,” Richie said.
According to the board members, HEMMA is booked this year, but Richie said students who are interested in participating next year should look for flyers to be sent home with them from the elementary schools.
A “Newtown HEMMA” Facebook page and a “NHS HEMMA” Twitter account are available and offer updates, Richie said. A website, http://nhshemma.wix.com/newtownhemma, has also been created, and anyone with questions can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Charash said she was involved with HEMMA last year as a board member. This year, Elizabeth said HEMMA is smoothly run with officers working together.
“It’s really cool to see it progress from something that is just ideas to something that is actually tangible,” Elizabeth said.
Seeing the younger students participating with music, Elizabeth said, is gratifying.
“Just seeing the kids faces, knowing that they are partaking in music, which is such a large part of my life,” Elizabeth said. “It is kind of cool to see little kids who are 6 or 7 are now getting really excited about something that I am personally passionate about. So it is cool to see that cycle continue.”
Mentors working with HEMMA this year are Aimee Talbot, Ajene Arokium, Ashlee Honiker, Ashley Gong, Ben Reilly, Caitlin Moss, Calista Giroux, Chaeli Allen, Danny Toby, Dawson Goodrich, Emily Charash, Emma Brantl, Enely Sokk, Gemma Hyeon, James Buck, Jimmy Craig, Judge Russell, Julia Radko, Kai Hedin, Katherine Mickewich, Lauren Engels, Madeline Marlin, Marie Randle, Maryyam Ali, Mimi Hawke, Molly Spak, Nathyn Horvath, Nick Randle, Noelle Veillette, Patrick Pierce, Portia Baudisch, Raymond Xue, Sarah Riccio, Savannah Davidow, Sophie Kennen, and Trevor Gaines.