Uniting the community with song

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  • The New Horizons Band, made up of community members ages 50 and up, had their winter concert at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in December. The photo above features the french horn section with student staff member Ryan Gruman.

  • CMS gives UNI music students more opportunities to teach and make connections for their future careers. At the same time, it makes music more accessible for people who aren’t enrolled at UNI through opportunities like the Children’s Choir.

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UNI’s Community Music School brings musical opportunities to all ages in the Cedar Valley 

The motto: “Music lasts a lifetime!” that’s attached to UNI’s Community Music School is proven every day in the classroom and on stage. The Community Music School (CMS) is located in Russell Hall and serves a diverse population of musicians. From ages 5 to 50, there’s something for everyone located in the Cedar Falls area. Since 2006, The Community Music School has, according to their website, been “an integral part of the Cedar Valley and UNI community, embracing a diverse and inclusive learning environment with exceptional programming where everyone is welcome regardless of ability, age, or financial means.”

CMS provides an array of services for anyone looking to learn an instrument. The Community Music School provides one-on-one private lessons for brass, woodwind, piano, percussion and vocals. They also provide group lessons in these fields. Under the umbrella of musical programs, the Community Music School provides the Children’s Choir, the New Horizons Band and Camp Musicmania. The Children’s Choir is made up of over 60 grade school students from Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Waverly who put on concerts semesterly in the Great Hall. The New Horizons Band is for adults aged 50 and up looking for a musical opportunity who put on a variety of performances over the summer, and Camp Musicmania is a summer day camp program for students interested in music. Across all of these programs, CMS services around 200 community members. 

Hamilton’s description of the sense of community within CMS can be found in everything the program does. The New Horizons band largely provides a sense of socialization for adults and senior citizens seeking out a community within music. The Children’s Choir provides grade school students with the opportunity to perform in the Great Hall, giving them a professional experience in an enriching environment that supports them in their musical journey. “The Community Music School is for everyone. It isn’t selective; everyone who wants to learn is welcome. They tell us what they want to learn and work on and we meet them where they’re at,” Hamilton said. 

Aside from engaging with the community and providing musical opportunities to a diverse population, UNI’s Community Music School also provides vast enriching opportunities for UNI School of Music students. UNI students are provided the opportunity to teach for CMS and to be camp counselors at Camp Musicmania. For music education students, this facet of CMS can be incredibly beneficial. “Students feel more prepared and confident to enter the workforce due to the experience and mentorship they receive from the Community Music School and their mentor teachers,” Hamilton elaborated. “They get the experience of interacting with students and parents and are able to solidify that ‘yes, this is something I want to do’ through the program.” UNI students are also able to teach alongside future colleagues through Camp Musicmania, as faculty from surrounding schools also come to teach in the summer camp program. Students who teach for the Community Music School work under mentor teachers, who help them with lesson plans and act as a point of contact and support for UNI music students embarking on their teaching journey. Students who want to be a teacher or counselor for CMS go through an application and hiring process, as these positions are also paid. “It’s a great resume builder,” Hamilton added when discussing how UNI students benefit from CMS. “It provides an opportunity for students to dig into teaching that prepares them for actual music education.” The Community Music School provides economic and career enrichment and opportunities for UNI music students that can’t be found elsewhere. 

The Community Music School welcomes the community onto campus to explore music and provide a healthy learning environment to do so in. CMS also provides scholarships to those seeking lessons on a financial basis, which are largely funded by donations. To get involved in the Community Music School, sign up for lessons, or donate to the scholarship funds, you can visit cms.uni.edu for more information.