Albion-Homer United Way Helps Create Success for Homer Band

Take six older high school musicians, mix in 28 years of teaching experience, add 35 younger instrumentalists and top it off with a grant from the Albion-Homer United Way and what do you have? Success for the Homer Community Schools band.

J. Scott McMeeking, Homer Community Schools band director, said that the AHUW grant made all the difference to 35 band students this summer as they received “private” lessons to improve their playing performance. To accomplish this, McMeeking gave private lessons to a select group of six older musicians. These high schoolers then helped teach smaller groups of five students to better play their instruments. In doing so, McMeeking said “the leaders received a half hour of musical instruction from me, followed by another half hour of tips and techniques to help younger musicians”. Using this model, McMeeking said students will be able to use the skills learned this summer, to improve the quality of the other 180 band students during the school year. This will improve individual performances at solo and ensemble competitions and the overall musical quality at band festivals.

Without the support of the Albion-Homer United Way grant funds, raised through its annual giving campaign, this summer program could not have existed, McMeeking stated. The new fund-raising campaign kicked-off October 1. New grants will be made in Spring, 2019.

McMeeking is enthusiastic about how the AHUW funding has made an impact on the students. “Typically, in a community like Homer, the number of students getting private help would generally be zero or maybe one to two in good years,” he said. “To have 35 students have that opportunity is truly something special.” The band director also said that he has tried for years not to make students “pay the price” for being from a small, isolated community. In the past, McMeeking has taught free summer private lessons to as many students as he could schedule. The need overwhelmed him. He applied to the AHUW for a small grant to purchase appropriate music and to pay the six high school musicians teaching the younger players. He still did not take any pay for his teaching hours.

This grant is an example of how the Albion-Homer United Way has helped fulfill its mission to “create long-lasting changes” in the two communities of Albion and Homer. Donations to the AHUW made it possible to fund six programs this year, including the Homer Community Summer Band Program, Healthy Babies Day, CISD Homer Strong Early Childhood Program, Albion District Library Early Childhood Literacy Program, Homer Public Library Early Childhood Literacy Program and Kids ‘N Stuff Free Day and Museums for All Program.

According to Marcia Starkey, AHUW executive director, the Homer summer band program is a great example of how your United Way makes decisions locally and funds local needs. It is good reason to donate to the AHUW to help fund programs benefitting Albion and Homer.

As McMeeking said, Albion-Homer United Way “made all the difference!”

Tim Krause