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Salem can almost hear the sweet sound of strings at schools

SALEM — When several School Board members attended a conference several years ago, they were blown away by a local high school string ensemble’s performance.

“It was one of the most outstanding high school musical performances I had ever seen,” said board member Pamela Berry. From that point forward, Berry and the other board members began a push to start a strings program in the Salem School District.

That push now looks like it will become a reality, with a proposal to begin an after-school strings program for fourth-graders with the hope that it will eventually expand into the high school.

“For many years, there has been an interest in beginning a strings program at the elementary school level that can eventually grow into a strings program here at the high school,” said Superintendent Michael Delahanty. “I’ve been talking with Mr. (Marty) Claussen, our band director at the high school, who for many years has desired a strings program. I think it will augment the wonderful music program we have, which culminates with the award-winning marching band at Salem High School.”

The after-school program will be open to 15 fourth-grade students and will be taught by Joanne Merisotis, a music teacher who has worked with the New Hampshire Philharmonic.

“She comes to us very highly regarded,” said Delahanty.

Merisotis will teach two one-hour classes per week at the Lancaster School. Students from all elementary schools in the district will be eligible for the program.

There will be no cost to the district, as the cost of the instructor and instrument rentals will be borne by the students. Delahanty estimated the cost would be about $25 per student per month.

The string lessons will include violas, violins and cellos.

Board member Michael Carney asked whether the program would be open only to fourth-graders in future years or whether students would be able to continue with the program through the years.

“Certainly, the intention is to grow the program,” said Delahanty. “We will either add days or hours depending on the instructor’s availability. Ms. Merisotis has a desire to see the program grow and to be on the ground floor of something that will be brand new for the district. We have every intention of adding groups as the years unfold.”

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