Mike Ritter and his professional musicians have spent time during the COVID-19 pandemic working with band members at Houston County High School. The internships helped students learn how to play instruments better, from breathing assistance and producing sounds to playing in tune with other students and language, the technique used with wind instruments to enunciate the notes.
The experiences have also been joyful, even during the difficult times of the past 15 months. After all, musicians tend to hang out in ensembles.
“Every time we go there every year, the students really get better in no time,” said Ritter, Music Director of Cumberland Winds.
The Clarksville-based music organization has trained band members at school and others, including Stewart County High School, for more than a decade, funded by an Art Build Communities grant.
Created by the Tennessee Arts Commission, the grant has supported dozens of organizations in Tennessee over the years, including last year, when opportunities to represent or showcase art were limited.
The goal of the grant is to help artists and organizations across the state develop and extend art to the public.
The ABC grant application for 2021 ends July 1.
Nonprofits and government entities receive up to $ 3,500 to fund art projects, including films, historical documentaries and music, said Ellen Kanervo, executive director of Clarksville / Montgomery County Arts & Heritage Developmental Council.
Cumberland Winds recently received approximately $ 1,900 in Artist and Workshop Clinician Fees for high school concerts and orchestral clinics.
“This allows nonprofit organizations that are not necessarily focused on the arts to apply for funding for artistic activities that they might be interested in sponsoring,” Kanervo said. “I think it’s a very, very good program that helps fund many different projects that are good for the communities.
The Clarksville / Montgomery County Arts & Heritage Developmental Council is one of 13 designated agencies in Tennessee that administer the ABC grant. It distributes grants for the counties of Montgomery, Stewart, Houston, Cheatham, Dickson and Humphreys.
Last year, he awarded the grant to eight organizations, including Cumberland Winds, which used the award to cover the costs of artists, clinics and professional fees.
“We are able to schedule performances, concerts and performances in venues with smaller groups that would normally have no type of musical entertainment,” Ritter said. “And that’s part of the reason the ABC grant is funded. It’s to bring the arts to places that normally wouldn’t see it.
Janice Bowling, trombonist and Cumberland Winds board member, said some musicians were struggling to give private lessons during the pandemic or perform at concerts – both have been canceled.
“I think it was difficult for the musicians because we like to get together and play,” Bowling said, “and for those who couldn’t play in some of the bands they were used to it was difficult for them. “
Even with the pandemic, the Cumberland Winds were surprised by their concert attendance. Separate chairs ensured public safety during the pandemic. Ritter said patrons spoke to the musicians after the performances and enjoyed the concerts and felt safe.
Several organizations that received the Arts Build Communities 2020 grant
ArtLink Clarksville ($ 2,500): Artist fees and supplies covered to support music and visual arts programs.
The Art League of Cheatham County ($ 1,840): Artist fees and supplies covered to support two events: a Discover the Arts weekend and a juried art exhibit.
Better Choice of Living ($ 2,600): Paid musicians to perform at a black-tie ballroom dinner to honor seniors and participate in a visual and performing arts workshop.
Clarksville Community Concert Association ($ 2,300): Artist fees paid for the Huntertones, a Brooklyn-based musical group that brings people from all over the world together with fun, imaginative and fearless music.