By Aaron Retherford
School budget cuts around the country many times mean the loss of opportunities for youth to develop a passion for art and music.
Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture in Montpelier has worked to bring those opportunities back to local children.
“What we have found in the past 5 or 10 years is that a lot of budgets are getting cut in the schools, and the first thing that seem to go are the arts,” Summit School director Katie Trautz said. “In order to fill that niche and vacancy in that education, we wanted to bring our resources directly to the schools, so that kids of all backgrounds and elementary school ages can participate.
“We’re trying to fill this niche, but we also believe it aligns with our mission of strengthening our community; by having children form these friendships and fellowships through the universal language of music.”
Students at Union Elementary in Montpelier and Rumney Elementary in Middlesex will have the opportunity to take part in Summit School’s after school program starting next week.
Fifty students enjoyed the after school program at Union Elementary during the fall semester, and the program has expanded to Rumney for the winter/spring.
Students from both schools can experience a wide range of music classes. At Union, students (K-5) can choose to take fiddle, ukulele and world music choir classes. While some classes at Union are only for specific grade levels, at Rumney, classes will integrate all grade levels K-6. However, instead of offering fiddle at Rumney, there will be a songwriting class.
Trautz said the school’s mission is to show that music is for anybody. So while the semester will end with a public concert, showcasing the students’ newly acquired skills, the classes are taught in a fun atmosphere and not like the higher stress environments of music academies.
Summit School also started a scholarship fund in order to help make the classes accessible for any student interested. Trautz said the school offers payment plans and a trade/bartering system, so no student will be turned away due to financial restrictions.
The idea of the after school programs stemmed from the success of the traditional music camps Summit School has held each of the past four summers that brought in about 40 participants.
Summit School didn’t start with a kid focus though.
Trautz, a native of Cabot and a fiddler since she was 17, had been running workshops when Rebecca Singer approached her with the idea of starting a folk music school together in an attempt to meet the need of adults who wanted to take folk music classes.
“We felt the Montpelier community would be very receptive to us,” Trautz said.
Summit School began with the mission of promoting cross-cultural exchange through music and dance classes. It has since evolved because it became clear that music can bring people together no matter what differences and boundaries exist.
“Currently, the Summit School’s focus is to bring affordable music and dance classes in the effort of community building and strengthening communities through the music and dance classes,” Trautz said. “It’s definitely generated a fellowship. The people who have taken our classes have gone forward and started their own jam sessions within the community and continued those friendships after the classes ended. So it seems like a process that bleeds out into the community, and you can actually see how it’s strengthening those friendships that may not have occurred otherwise.”
Summit School is also strengthening the Montpelier economy as well as giving the community a chance to break out of the winter blues. From January 15-18, Summit School will host its Fifth Annual Winter Folk Music Festival, ‘Spice on Snow’.
Summit School teams up with the City of Montpelier and local businesses to put on the festival. Last year, it drew nearly 1,000 people to Montpelier.
“We don’t have a college community here, not like Burlington. It’s more of a place people pass through on the way to skiing or heading up to Montreal. We wanted to help make Montpelier more of a destination,” Trautz said.
For anyone interested in the Summit School’s after school program, adult classes or the Spice on Snow festival, Summit School’s website can be found at www.summit-school.org or check out its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SummitSchoolVT.