Message from Band President and Founder Sonny Pierce
About 2006/2007, a good friend of mine, Joe Daigneault, and I began to discuss the possibilities of starting a "big band" jazz band in our local community. We gathered a few of our musician friends, gathered a few music charts, and began playing. That beginning whetted our appetite for a larger effort to form a full band and to actually perform a few concerts for our local communities. Those early days were very discouraging, the challenges to fill all the chairs and find enough musicians committed to this effort were immense. Not finding enough musicians in our local communities prompted us to approach music directors in local high schools to find students that might have interest in playing in such a band. Eventually, enough players were assembled to bring together a full band.Our initial focus was to play the "classics" from the 1930's and 40's "big band" era. As we took our band "out on the road", we began to sense some importance to what we were doing. The senior citizens in our audiences were thrilled with our concerts and were a great encouragement for us, their enthusiasm was very contagious! But little did we realize the importance of this music to the elderly. Later we began to learn how important music from the "big band" era was therapeutically, especially to those with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia disease. We find ourselves being drawn into a very important mission to our senior citizens and to elder care facilities. As we partner with them, we are developing purpose-driven programming to provide a music that is so very important to these people in ways far greater than we had ever envisioned in the beginning. The video slideshow at the very top of our home page describes it well.
Looking back from where we are today, we are thankful for our early struggles as those struggles to form a full band led us to also include high school and college age musicians. Including the younger generation in our band has afforded us a unique opportunity to pass on to our younger generation the appreciation for a very special part of our American musical heritage. The "big band" era is and remains unprecedented in its influence on American music. We are thankful for every young musician who has joined us, and we look forward to working with many more in the years ahead. Between 2011 and 2012, we have had six members of our band graduate from high school, four of whom have gone on to college majoring in music. We continue to provide encouragement to them and are thankful for the common bond of music we have with them. Today our band members range in age from fifteen to over sixty, we hope it will always be that way. This is truly a unique effort. We look forward to many years doing what we can to keep the music from the "big band" era alive. This is very important music literature for all generations to not only enjoy but also to appreciate.
Since our incorporation as a non-profit organization back in 2011, the Board of Directors has been pursuing ways to encourage music education. Encouraging and supporting music education offerings within our surrounding local school systems is a very important priority of our Board. Another priority is to encourage and support private lessons for students of ALL ages to advance their musical skills. The Board has also come to realize that the public school systems, due to tight budgets and cutbacks in programming, are not able to fulfill all the needs there are for music education and performance. The Board further realizes that, in this current age, not all school age children attend public schools, many students are now home-schooled or attend private schools. These latter groups often have limited resources to provide opportunities for music education and performance for their students. We have also come to realize that there are many adults, who at some time in their lives may have been directly involved in music but have laid it aside for various reasons. Often adults express to us their desire to directly reconnect with music, but don't know how or where to get started. All these realizations are very apparent to our organization. There appears to be be many opportunities to provide meaningful programming in music education and performance to meet some of these unfulfilled needs.
Late in 2011, the Board of Directors formed an Education Committee to formally study and assess the current needs for music education within our surrounding communities. The Board created a music education arm of our organization and launched a program under the name of Pleasant Hill Academy of Music Education (or PHAME). The initial and primary purpose of this project is to formally establish a school of music, the secondary purpose is to establish a performing musical arts center for the benefit of the community of southern Maine. Pilot music education programs are currently being developed and will soon be offered. Our primary goal will be to determine how effective alternative music education programming might be as a supplement to existing offerings. Secondarily, we will determine how effective such offerings might be at fulfilling some of the real needs. As of early 2012, this project is in its infancy, we will do our best to keep everyone updated on this very important endeavor. If our first pilot program offering with a Youth Concert Band is any indication, our efforts in music education will be very successful.
Our organization has a very ambitious vision, and obviously one that will not likely be realized overnight. We will need a lot of help and support from our communities to make it happen. If you would like to support our vision through donations, joint participation, or through just plain encouragement and support, please contact us. We would love to have you partner with us.
Saco River Jazz Ensemble was incorporated in 2011 as a 501(c3) non-profit organization, and all donations to our organization, no matter how small or large, are welcome and are fully tax-deductible.