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Music Education

Children's Music
Children's MusicClick to see more Children's Music

Child development educators agree music ignites the skills children need for school readiness, including intellectual, social-emotional, motor, language, and literacy.

Music helps the body and the mind work together, and musical experiences in childhood can accelerate brain development, especially in language, reading skills, and mathematical learning. Family and school bands and encouraged children to learn how to play a musical instrument and to perform in front of audiences.

Dancing to music helps children build motor skills while allowing them to practice self-expression. For children and adults, music helps strengthen memory skills.

Robert Cheney posing with ukulele, Sanford, 1931
Robert Cheney posing with ukulele, Sanford, 1931
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

The Portland Sunday Telegram featured five-year-old Robert Cheney of Sanford, praising him as "one of the talented young musicians of this town, possessing a very strong and sweet singing voice."

Starting in the 1920s, cowboy themed outfits and country music became popular. Radio and film star Gene Autry (1907-1998), known as the “singing cowboy” sold children-sized guitars to meet this market need.

Eastern Music Camp

Eastern Music Camp
Eastern Music CampClick to learn more about the Eastern Music Camp

Music teacher Dorothy Harlow Marden of Waterville and other educators formed an organization that purchased 190 acres on Lake Messalonskee in Sidney for a summer music camp. They provided intense music experiences to young people from the Eastern United States from 1931 to 1934, until the camp went bankrupt during the Great Depression.

The Eastern Music Camp averaged 110 co-ed campers and twenty faculty specializing in diverse instruments from voice and chorus to bassoon for eight weeks in the summer. They held annual concerts, drawing crowds of campers’ families and the public.

Nina and Paul Wiggin took over the camp in 1937, renaming it the New England Music Camp (NEMC) dedicated to the cultivation and refinement of musical skills in young people, incorporating recreation opportunities alongside music practice. For nearly 90 years, a robust camp scholarship program supports campers who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend. As of 2024, the NEMC continues under the fourth generation of Wiggin family leadership.

The Bowl in the Pines at Eastern Music Camp

The Bowl in the Pines
The Bowl in the PinesClick for more about the Bowl in the Pines

Built in 1930 in Sidney, the Bowl in the Pines at the Eastern Music Camp is the second largest outdoor shell stage in the United States. The original stage, benches, and chairs are in use by the New England Music Camp as of 2024.

Walter Damrosch

New York Philharmonic conductor for nearly 50 years, Walter Damrosch served as honorary president of the Eastern Music Camp. Recognized as one of the greatest living musicians at the time, Damrosch was a stage and radio star. He married Margaret Blaine, Maine politician James G. Blaine’s daughter in 1890.

Damrosch acted as guest conductor for the 100-piece camper orchestra in 1931, 1932, and 1934. The Kennebec Journal reported the camp asked Maine State Police to assist with traffic on “Damrosch Day” in 1932 when 4,000 people attended. Damrosch called the Eastern Music Camp “a miracle of musical achievement in the woods of Maine.”