Helping to cultivate music, whether in beginners or in others throughout the learning journey, is at the center of a new initiative from Peace Dale Congregational Church led by music director Nathaniel Baker.
With the support of the church, he plans to establish the PDCC Music Academy, which will offer courses for anyone interested in developing their musical talents, he said.
“It is difficult to find private lessons in singing and certain instruments. It’s hit or miss for a good private education,” said the principal who has been with the church since 2019.
The move came as the South Kingstown City School Board first cut – then later reinstated – funding for music programs at various schools. Churches that step in when cities fail to provide opportunities for learning music are also happening elsewhere in the country.
The PDCC is currently collecting names of interested individuals to match them with teachers. It also collects the names of instructors wishing to make their services available.
Lessons can last from 30 to 60 minutes and will include lessons in piano, drums, violin, guitar, composition, brass, woodwinds, cello, and even vocals.
Baker said other instruments will also be included and lessons for them should be discussed with him.
The cost will aim to be adjustable based on an individual or family’s ability to pay, he said.
The purpose of the program is to help achieve a church mission of giving back to the community while fostering spiritual and personal growth.
Peace Dale Congregational Church is not the first church to find potential in the program.
When the Waterloo School District in Iowa cut music programs a few years ago, members and leaders of Unity Presbyterian Church saw an opportunity to partner with Kittrell Elementary School to provide music education opportunities, according to the States News Service.
“No Strings Attached” became an after-school string education class for 4th and 5th graders. Students learn violin, viola, or cello, taught by Unity pastor, Reverend Christine Kaplunas, and 2-3 assistant teachers.
The church, which had mixed with two others, saw it as a “dream is to live in our collective call to nurture and support student leaders in the community through music education,” according to Kaplunas in an interview with 2017.
Although music education is the goal, the church also focuses on the fundamental messages of the Christian faith. Students receive reminders in every classroom that they are loved, belong and can do great things, according to Kaplunas.
Waterloo’s strong community values are also found in South Kingstown.
PDCC’s Baker said his program also aims to build on a strong school community commitment to music, which recently surfaced with protests and the possible reversal of cuts to school music programs.
“I noticed almost immediately when I arrived here how important music is to this community. There is also a civic pride in it, ”he said.
Religion and music have for centuries been closely linked to a connection between emotions and their expressions in the spiritual context. Although this program is not aimed at sacred music or even particular spiritual beliefs, it is linked to the desire to express feelings through melodies.
Pastor Fred Evenson highlighted the congregation’s longstanding commitment to the community by helping the hungry, sponsoring the Welcome House homeless shelter, advocating for environmental conservation and other civic issues.
“We strive to be a community-serving, apron-wearing church, so it only makes sense that we reach out to our neighbors, serving a new dish in the form of our music academy,” he said. -he declares,
“I am happy to pastor such a service-oriented religious family, as we make music lessons possible for anyone who is interested,” Evenson added.
Using the church’s mission and a community interest, Baker said he wanted to reach out across town to publicize the program’s availability.
At its core, he said, he wants to match students with instructors, cost with affordability — including church scholarships to help the needy — and desire with commitment for a positive experience that l instructor and student have.
“If someone comes along and says we can only afford $40, what kind of instructor do we know that can meet that student’s needs for that amount and have a relationship?” he said,
Connecting both a passion for music, learning and teaching along with an acceptable cost structure is the centerpiece of the effort’s success, he said.
“It has to be a total win-win for both. It’s a team sport – it’s very collaborative. We see this program hopefully as a community resource,” he said.
Baker didn’t want to speculate on individual costs “because we’re going to take that on a case-by-case basis.”
The music director also said instruments are donated by members of the church and support funds are sought to help defray the costs of instruments when someone cannot afford a rental price or purchase.
He said the instructors will be recruited from a roster of musicians and singers he works with at various venues in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
They will have background checks. At all times, there will be people in the church buildings when classes are given. A website explaining the program will be linked to that of the church at peacedalechurch.org.
The program will be listed under the “Music” tab on the website.
“The biggest hope is that we can give people the opportunity to discover musical talent that they normally wouldn’t,” he said.