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Low-Cost Lessons Raise Musical Bar for Local Teens

April 15, 2024 School of Music

Terrapin Community Music School program in action

Terrapin Community Music School matches grad students with youths to expand access.

By Sala Levin '10 | Maryland Today

The steady, percussive clacking reverberating from a classroom in The Clarice has the drive and precision of a full drumline, with just a tiny fraction of the volume. “Give me one!” a voice calls out. “Give me two! Give me three! Break it down!”

That’s music education doctoral student Lauren McGinley, calling out instructions on a Sunday afternoon to a small group of teens, each standing behind a desk and tapping out a unified beat with a pair of drumsticks on the tops of their chairs. 

This warmup exercise is a snippet of the Terrapin Community Music School: High School Academy (TCMS), a program the University of Maryland launched last fall to offer affordable music education to high school students in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Each week, students receive one-on-one lessons in their instrument from School of Music (SOM) graduate students, and amp up their experience with a group musicianship class, where McGinley leads discussions on theory, the emotional impact of songs and music history. 

“I like how interactive it is,” said violinist Boyan Tiwang, a junior at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, Md. “The one-on-one lessons have really helped me improve as a musician, as well as the musicianship class. I’ve learned a lot about music theory that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

Led by Allison Durbin ’15, Ph.D. ’23, assistant clinical professor of music education, TCMS, funded by Arts for All and the School of Music, is an accessible alternative to often-pricey private music lessons. For $180, students receive 10 individual lessons, plus the weekly musicianship class. Forty percent of the 34 currently enrolled students get additional assistance from TCMS, and SOM’s Office of Community Engagement also partners with four Prince George’s high schools to entirely cover the enrollment fee. (TCMS also includes an early childhood program called the Hatchling Music Program; nearly 100 kids are enrolled there.)

Read the full story in Maryland Today.