The JuilliHeart of the Wild West By Jillian Chandler
Since opening its doors to the community in 2009, the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint (MCS) has created an inviting, yet challenging, environment for aspiring young performers; paying attention to accessibility while providing and maintaining excellence in teaching and learning in a most nurturing environment, with staff who value collaboration. “We are becoming more like a JuilliHeart of the Wild West every day,” smiles Karin Wedemeyer, founder and director of the MCS.
From the beginning, Karin thought outside the box, actually removing the box altogether, so that learning an instrument would be a joy for her students rather than a chore. At MCS, students are invited to linger in the foyer, meet other students, have a snack, and listen to each other practice. “There is no rushing, neither for parents nor for students. Coming together is natural and is encouraged, since learning an instrument is best when enjoyed as a shared experience.”
The MCS staff understands the importance for students to be able to refuel before their next activity and implemented “Food for Thought,” a program in collaboration with volunteers from the Food Bank, which supplies wholesome snacks for their learners. MCS also has a well-stocked coffee bar for parents and a never-ending chocolate supply for staff.
According to Karin, MCS’s teachers are carefully selected for their willingness to embrace, mentor, teach and encourage students—aside from being excellent performers themselves. “All this creates a collaborative environment at MCS that helps students thrive.” And the students are thriving! In recent competitions, MCS Honor students took gold and silver in all their instruments, displaying high levels of confidence and joy as they performed.
Students of the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint experience much more than music lessons and lessons in the performing arts; MCS provides a rich cultural experience. As a globally minded school of performing arts, teachers and guest artists come from a variety of international backgrounds. As Karin affirms, “Cultural exposure and interactions are natural and important during times of high cultural anxiety. Music is this beautiful tool that brings people together.” For the past decade, their Music Without Borders program has hosted students from all over the world including Mexico, Europe and Africa. To capture its rich history and goals, the program will now be known as Music Matters! GLOBAL.
Music Matters!, another program of MCS that brings tuition-free music instruction to the youth of Sandpoint (ages 1 to 18) and includes choir, orchestra, percussion, theater, and Little Mozarts early childhood classes, provides over 1,000 hours of instruction, rehearsal and performance hours during the course of the school year. This program is an invitation to play and allows students to check out an instrument from its in-house Instrument Library at no charge. (The Instrument Library currently holds 258 quality instruments—from violins and cellos to harps, flutes and so much more!)
“We prioritize getting kids on stage, letting children see other children perform, bringing musicians together of all ages, and creating mentoring pathways led by older students as well as professional musicians,” states Kathi Samuels, MCS development director. “And we do not turn students away based on cost.”
The invitation to nurture the love of music extends outdoors to their Little Mozarts Plaza in front of the school, where anyone can play on the much-loved community piano, painted this past summer by students in the Instrument Art Factory—another brainchild of Karin’s.
“Our greatest gift is that we pay great attention to creating an environment that students can thrive in all around—embracing the many components of an artistic experience and training, which includes overall personal development,” Karin reflects. “What we offer here is much more than taking a music lesson.”
For those who would like to support MCS students and their mission, whether as a volunteer, a donor, sponsor, or friend, Karin invites you in to take a tour.
Music Conservatory of Sandpoint 110 Main St. Sandpoint, ID 208.265.4444 SandpointConservatory.org