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From Maine to Guatemala: Hampden Academy students to ‘Hug it Forward’

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HAMPDEN – A group of music students at Hampden Academy are once again turning their talents toward helping a worthy cause.

“Sometimes we walk into this great facility at Hampden Academy and kind of take it for granted,” says Patrick Michaud, director of bands and instructor of Music Industry and Music Theory for RSU #22. “We’re pretty darn lucky to have what we have and that’s why we decided to help.”

Michaud and his music students are in the final rehearsal stage for “Play it Forward V” – a CD release concert scheduled for January 11 at 7:00 p.m. Funds raised are earmarked for “Hug it Forward,” an organization currently in its 10th year of constructing “bottle” schools in Latin America.

In 2012, Hampden Academy administrative assistant Jeanette Evans was part of a group of volunteers that traveled to Guatemala to assist with the construction of a school partially built with plastic recyclable bottles stuffed with inorganic trash.

“They surround the bottles with cement and use whatever supplies are donated to build these schools,” Michaud told me. “We have amazing facilities here in Hampden and it’s sad that these people are just getting by with the bare minimum.”

“Play it Forward” is a biennial event for Hampden Academy students, inspired by Michaud’s brother-in law, Bob James, a musician and teacher in New York who uses music industry training as a way to teach leadership skills and job training to music students.

“Play it Forward has the same purpose that it’s always had,” Michaud said. “It serves as a vehicle for our students here at Hampden Academy to write original music and have it recorded in a professional situation with Andrew Clifford at Main Street Music Studio.”

Michaud says he is excited by the variety and quality of music on display on the “Play it Forward V” CD, which will be sold at the concert on Friday evening for $5 each. The disc consists of ten original pieces recorded by about 20 students in a variety of musical configurations.

“We have folksy stuff, gals with ukuleles, an R&B band, a jazz combo, electronic music and a breathtaking original piano piece by one of our seniors,” said Michaud. “The students in my Music Industry class are assisting with all of this.”

Hampden Academy music students will perform their original pieces during this Friday evening’s ‘Play it Forward V’ concert at Hampden Academy Performing Arts Center, 89 Western Avenue in Hampden.

The Hampden Academy Performing Arts Center is a 910-seat facility that offers state of the art audio and acoustics. Tickets and CDs will be available at the door. Michaud adds that if attendees wanted to make a larger donation to “Hug it Forward,” he and his students would welcome it.

“We’re always excited to help out other folks in need,” he said. “It’s good for our kids to be thinking beyond themselves. I’ve shown them the video (of students and volunteers building bottle schools in Guatemala) and I think they understand that if they had been born anyplace else, they could be in a situation where they would be tasked with building their own school.”

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