Music

At its inception, the school’s vision centered upon the relationship between music education and the immersion process of learning a second language. They are partners in a full education. Though the national trend is to reduce this component of education, we believe that a strong music art curriculum lays the foundation for strong mathematical and scientific intelligence. All grade levels at L’Ecole Française du Maine are immersed in our Music Arts Program, which includes the Music Together In School Program from Early Childhood through grade 1, music theory taught through ukulele in the elementary grades,and a Choral Program and an opportunity for private Suzuki lessons on site during the school day.

Music Together: (from Music Together) “The international Music Together program has been offered worldwide for more than twenty-five years. The comprehensive Music Together In School curriculum for children from birth through second grade offers early learning settings a consistently high level of music education that’s geared to the way children learn. Children can enjoy a playful learning environment that’s musically rich, yet immediately accessible to their-and their teacher’s-participation. Teachers love the professional development and family engagement at the root of the program. And parents love that the music comes home, so they can share in the experience. The curriculum supports the work of classroom teachers and engages parents, in addition to supporting each child’s music and overall development.”

Ukulele and Music Theory: What fun to apply the musical skills learned in the early years to playing the ukulele with friends! Playing the ukulele is a wonderful way to develop musical skills and learn theory, all the while gaining music appreciation through an instrument that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Our students enjoy practicing together, singing along, and performing for family and friends!

Suzuki Program: The immersion method is Listen and Learn. The Suzuki method is the same. We’re proud to work in collaboration with the Maine Suzuki Association to offer our students private, on-site Suzuki lessons in piano, guitar, violin and cello. Parent involvement is required for private lessons.

Choral Program: Our school “Chorale,” comprised of all students, practices weekly with our Chorus leaders and accompanist. The “Chorale” often performs during our monthly school community events, which are a key component of the music program. These community performances may also include musical pieces from Suzuki students, and general songs, dances and skits.

Music Together




Benjamin Noyes

Benjamin Noyes grew up in Portland, ME, inheriting a rich musical/pedagogical heritage from his parents. He found local acclaim immediately and while attending Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, Irene Sharp invited him to study in San Francisco where he attended the School of the Arts and San Francisco Conservatory’s preparatory division. He won numerous awards, including top prizes in NFAA’s ARTS Recognition Competition, National Federation of Music Clubs Competition, the National ASTA competition, as well as being selected by Yo-Yo Ma to participate as soloist and recitalist throughout China to perform with the Beijing, Chengdu, Shenzen and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras. As a fellowship recipient he attended the Tanglewood Institute, the New York String Orchestra Seminar, Yale summer festival at Norfolk, Sarasota Chamber Music Festival, the Aspen Festival, and the Meadowmount program. He attended Eastman School of Music, received his BM from Rice University and his Masters degree from Northwestern University. A multi-faceted individual, Benjamin Noyes has as many talents as interests. His career currently finds him collaborating and participating in performances around the country as well as teaching, coaching, and motivating individuals of all ages and professions. He has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Always aware of his classical roots, he has further ventured into composition, recording and producing.

Gary Wittner

Gary has been delighting audiences of all ages for over 25 years, performing and teaching music on five continents worldwide. He has represented the United States three times: twice as a Kennedy Center/U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassador and once as a Fulbright Grant recipient. He holds degrees from Berklee College of Music and Washington State University. A popular clinician, Gary regularly presents guitar workshops at the K-12 and college level throughout the United States. He currently teaches music at Bowdoin College and The University of S. Maine School of Music. As a performing guitarist, Gary works in many contexts from solo guitar to larger ensembles. His arrangements of traditional Blues/Folk Americana for solo guitar have been performed worldwide and can be heard on three of his CDs. He is a member of the New York based Trio WAG, and also performs Latin music with several bands in the northeastern United States.  He has traveled to Ecuador six times, performing Latin music and his original compositions, and has recorded 2 CD’s with tuba legend Howard Johnson.  He received a Maine Arts Commission Grant in 2006, and continues to compose, perform and record worldwide. A specialist in the music and life of Thelonious Monk, Gary has presented concert/lectures on Monk at some of the most prestigious music schools in the world including Berklee College of Music (Boston), The New School (New York), The Guild Hall School of Music (London), The Rimsky Korsakov Conservatory (St. Petersburg), and Indiana State University (Bloomington).  His book, “Thelonious Monk for Guitar”, published by Hal Leonard, continues to be popular throughout the guitar playing world. Additional articles written by Gary have been published in Guitar Player Magazine, Coda, and the International Association of Jazz Educators Journal. A friend of the Monk family, Gary has performed for Mrs. Nellie Monk, and been interviewed on the radio with Thelonious Monk, Jr. More info can be found at www.garywittner.com

Peter Dugas

Peter Dugas has been playing and teaching classical and jazz piano professionally for over fifteen years. He has been a fixture in Portland’s music scene and has played in a variety of styles from jazz to classical to pop. He currently plays as a solo artist; in the afro-jazz organ trio “Micromassé;” with the 80’s pop band “The Awesome;” and with a variety of other acts. He has worked as a composer and arranger for many jazz and pop groups and his recorded and live work has collected rave reviews. His 2014 release Micromassé: “Because You Have Friends” was selected as one a top five best short work by Dig Magazine. He has performed throughout the northeast US and in Finland, Germany and France. He has shared the stage with Charlie Hunter, Bombino, Bernadette Peters, Maceo Parker, Mighty Sam McClain, Marvin Stamm, Blue Oyster Cult, Moon Hootch, and Harry Waters. Peter maintains a busy teaching schedule at his home studio and at L’Ecole Française du Maine in Freeport. His students have successfully competed in statewide jazz and classical piano competitions. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine in Jazz Performance and a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Engineering from Brown University. Peter lives in Portland, Maine with his wife and daughter.

Leah Neuchiller

Leah Neuchiller is a classically-trained pianist who maintains a private piano studio in Cumberland Foreside. While a music major at Brandeis University, she studied piano performance with the French pianist Evelyn Crochet. More recently she has been studying with Laura Kargul, head of piano performance at USM, and is in the process of earning a Master’s Degree in Piano Pedagogy. Leah has been active playing and performing chamber music, as well as the solo classical piano repertoire. As a skilled accompanist, she has accompanied solo performers and church choirs. Leah brings enthusiasm for teaching piano to young beginners. Having a background in psychology during her first career as a clinical social worker, she interjects warmth and compassion into her piano teaching. Employing an eclectic approach in teaching, Leah utilizes a blend of Suzuki and the Faber method of piano instruction. Leah is a member of the Music Teacher’s National Association and the Maine Music Teachers Association. In addition to her love of music and the piano, another passion for Leah is spending time with her two grandchildren who live nearby in Falmouth.

Shaina Graff

Shaina began playing the violin at age three and music has been an integral part of her life ever since. Her studies have included various methods first beginning as a Suzuki student. Suzuki instructors include John Kendall and more recently Teacher Training from Ronda Cole, Kimberly Meier-Sims, and Cathryn Lee. She pursued a Bachelors and Masters degree in Music Performance at Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduating with honors under Hungarian Professor Michael Barta. Further individual studies with violinists around the world include Timothy Shiu, David Kim, and Geza Koposh. She was honored chamber music coaching with Cavani String Quartet and Kodaly String Quartet. During her studies, she appeared as concertmaster and soloist with the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra, as well as performed with the Chamber Music Society and Altgeld Chamber Players. Shaina has been director of her own studio, Shaina’s Strings Studio, which has been providing violin and viola lessons to aspiring musicians of all ages for over a decade. Her students are involved in community events, orchestras, performances, competitions, and have gone on to receive scholarships at the university level. Seeking to spread the enjoyment and passion for music to all, Shaina’s Strings Students enjoy playing music of all genres with the fundamentals and technique to take them to unlimited possibilities. Shaina is a member of the Suzuki Association of America and String Teachers Association. As a professional, Shaina performs with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Paducah Symphony Orchestra, and recently to include Midcoast Symphony and North Shore Philharmonic. Other performances include Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Union Avenue Opera, Tulsa Opera Co., Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, Winter Opera St. Louis, Illinois Chamber Orchestra, Fayetteville Symphony, Southeast Missouri Symphony, and the Southern Illinois Summer Music Festival Orchestra. Additionally to orchestral settings, Shaina is active in various performing styles and settings. In addition to educating and performing, Shaina is extremely passionate about chamber music. She served as vice president of the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society and for over a decade as a violinist of the Chautauqua String Ensemble. She desires to create more opportunities for musicians and to enhance the musical connection with the community through chamber music. Shaina has always been drawn to Maine and after visiting she fell in love with the state and the people. As a new resident to the beautiful Northeast, Shaina looks forward to making a positive valuable impact on musicians and music lovers of all ages. She treasures the role she partakes in each violinist’s educational life and looks forward to unlimited possibilities to come. Music is the Alchemy of Life.

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