2014-04-18 / Front Page

Lasting legacy

Teacher’s memory, music marches on
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


Sam Miale, above, an eighth-grade student from Middle School of the Kennebunks, auditioned for a Keith McClelland Fund scholarship Saturday. He performed Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and a solo from the Eddie Van Halen instrumental, “Eruption.” Miale was among 19 students who auditioned, of which 11 were awarded scholarships. Left, Caleb Auriemma, a first-grade student at Kennebunk Elementary School, holds his guitar after auditioning. Auriemma strummed and sang James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.” Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are eligible to apply for one of 10 scholarships of $150 each. Auriemma did not win, but Peter Hoff, a judge, assured him, “I think you have a great career ahead of you.” (Alex Acquisto photos) Sam Miale, above, an eighth-grade student from Middle School of the Kennebunks, auditioned for a Keith McClelland Fund scholarship Saturday. He performed Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and a solo from the Eddie Van Halen instrumental, “Eruption.” Miale was among 19 students who auditioned, of which 11 were awarded scholarships. Left, Caleb Auriemma, a first-grade student at Kennebunk Elementary School, holds his guitar after auditioning. Auriemma strummed and sang James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.” Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are eligible to apply for one of 10 scholarships of $150 each. Auriemma did not win, but Peter Hoff, a judge, assured him, “I think you have a great career ahead of you.” (Alex Acquisto photos) KENNEBUNK – “Keith was one of those bigger-than-life-people,” Sarah Beard said Saturday before the 10th annual Keith McClelland Fund auditions began for kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

McClelland, a multi-faceted music teacher in the Kennebunks for 25 years and the organist at Church on the Cape, died in 2002 at the age of 78. His talent and kind-heartedness in life etched a legacy in death, affecting nearly everyone who had a family member in the school system or played a musical instrument.

“The biggest gift he gave to my children, Liz and Amy, was to teach them to get up in front of an auditorium full of people and say hello,” Beard said of her daughters, who are now adults. “Keith played at my daughter’s baptism,” said Vickie Hamel, another former colleague of McClelland’s and a member of the scholarship committee.

Vicky Cherry, another committee member and former colleague, remembered when her daughter was in kindergarten and performing in the town’s Christmas play, she and the other students started singing “Jingle Bells” before McClelland started playing the piano. “The kids started singing it in a different key,” Cherry said.


Janelle Powell, a third-grader at Consolidated School, displays musical talent on violin Saturday during auditions for the 10th annual Keith McClelland Fund scholarship. Powell has been playing violin since second grade. Ten winners were selected and each awarded a $150 scholarship to be used to further their musical training. (Alex Acquisto photo) Janelle Powell, a third-grader at Consolidated School, displays musical talent on violin Saturday during auditions for the 10th annual Keith McClelland Fund scholarship. Powell has been playing violin since second grade. Ten winners were selected and each awarded a $150 scholarship to be used to further their musical training. (Alex Acquisto photo) Rather than stop the group and have them sing in the right key so he could better play it on the piano, “Keith just modulated to the right key and met them where they were.”

Beard said, “He was an incredibly gifted man and could play anything on the piano. Somebody once called him a pied piper, and that’s really what he was.”


Alex Miale, a fifth-grader at Middle School of the Kennebunks, played the drums Saturday during his audition for the Keith McClelland Fund scholarship. Miale and his brother, Sam, both took part in the auditions. Sam Miale performed a rendition of Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” on electric guitar. Both boys said if they won, they would use their scholarship money to fund music lessons. (Alex Acquisto photo) Alex Miale, a fifth-grader at Middle School of the Kennebunks, played the drums Saturday during his audition for the Keith McClelland Fund scholarship. Miale and his brother, Sam, both took part in the auditions. Sam Miale performed a rendition of Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” on electric guitar. Both boys said if they won, they would use their scholarship money to fund music lessons. (Alex Acquisto photo) The day his obituary ran in the paper, Beard and about 12 colleagues and friends of McClelland’s, including the music department at Kennebunk High School, agreed they had to do something to honor his memory.

“In an hour we put this fund together,” Beard said, remembering fondly that, “He taught us all that music is such a big part of life. We wanted to keep it in the schools so children would know this, too.”

The Keith McClelland Fund is the only scholarship awarded to elementary school students in Regional School Unit 21, Beard said.

Each year, 10 students with a musical penchant earn a $150 scholarship. The money is to be used toward furthering each student’s musical education, Hamel said.

There is an 11th spot reserved for a “brass instrument-worthy” student, Beard said.

The brass scholarship is in memory of Carl Bartlett, a friend of McClelland’s and a fellow music teacher.

On Saturday at Kennebunk High School, 19 students auditioned in Economos Auditorium. In year’s past, said Hamel, the committee has seen as many as 70 students try out.

Many children who have received the scholarships in recent years are too young to remember who McClelland and Bartlett were.

“When I told Nels about the opportunity to apply for the Keith McClelland scholarship, he wanted to learn what it was about. Not knowing Mr. McClelland, we read about him and how he extended his love and the gift of music to children of the same interest,” said Emilie Spas, mother of seventh-grader Nels Faul.

Faul won a $150 scholarship on Saturday after auditioning with his clarinet.

“The picture of Mr. McClelland walking along side the marching musicians in a parade (long ago) especially resonated with Nels,” Spas said. “It reminded him of when he played in last year’s Memorial Day parade with Middle School of the Kennebunks and Kennebunk High School.”

Caleb Auriemma was one of the first and youngest students to audition.

A first-grade student from Kennebunk Elementary School, Auriemma strummed his over-sized acoustic guitar and sang James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.”

“I think you have a great career ahead of you,” judge Peter Hoff told Auriemma. If he won, Auriemma said, he was going to use the money to pay for guitar lessons. “I want to take lessons. My dad signed me up after I kept bugging him,” he said.

Other students were a bit more seasoned, like Sam Miale, an eighth-grader from Middle School of the Kennebunks, who performed the Led Zeppelin classic “Stairway to Heaven” with finesse on the electric guitar before cutting quickly to the first part of Eddie Van Halen’s famed “Eruption” guitar solo.

“How did you go about learning that?” Hoff asked.

“I started by watching a YouTube video and then my music teacher helped to finalize it,” Miale replied.

The auditions are a good way to encourage kids to become more comfortable interacting with adults and displaying their skills in a more challenging atmosphere, Beard said.

Said Spas, “The audition was a good vehicle for Nels. It allowed him to think about his approach to his music, and how to communicate with the scholarship panel. It instilled responsibility and reinforced confidence in how he presents himself.”

By the end of the day, the 10 winners ranged from second to eighth grade and included Miale. An eleventh student, Abby Larrabee, won the Carl Bartlett Award for her skills on the trumpet.

Faul, like many of the other winners, will use the money toward music lessons or a specialized music experience, like a camp. Faul will use his scholarship to offset the cost of attending the University of Southern Maine Junior Music Academy for six days in July.

“His goal for attending the camp is to extend his musical knowledge,” Spas said. “The camp will offer instruction, the opportunity to play with musicians of a high skill level, and to audition for a jazz band.”

Offering aid to fund music lessons or camp is what McClelland would have done were he alive, Beard said. “Keith would make sure that all kids could get lessons, even those who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to,” Beard said. “But he never would accept money,” Hamlin said. “He was just that thoughtful.”

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