The Athens Community Music School, located in Glidden Hall, is celebrating its 40-year anniversary.
The ACMS was established in 1979 by Marilyn Remonko and continues today through the programs offered to students.
“We routinely enroll 300 students each semester,” Wendy Blackwood, the director of the school, said.
She noted changes school officials made over the years, which include new directors and adding the popular children’s chorus in 1987.
Marsha Reilly, a retired instructor of the Athens Community Music School, said the children’s chorus was once a children’s opera.
“I was asked to train a group of children to participate in the OU Opera production of Carmen. That led to the beginning of the Athens Children Chorus. Around that time also, there was a Children’s Opera group in Athens which was disbanded. So Marilyn Remonko, the original director and I decided to start the Children’s Chorus,” Reilly said in an email.
For a while, the school continued to include the opera as a spring production and only run the chorus in the fall. The first opera was Albert and Tiberius, which is about a lion in the circus. Jonah and the Whale, where a movable whale was created by a parent specifically for the show, was another. ACMS members also performed Clowns, in which a professional clown helped in teaching students the movements and techniques. After a number of years, however, the Athens Community Music School made the transition to a children’s chorus instead of an opera.
While the operas may have ended production years ago, the impact was significant on students.
“The person who sang the part of ‘Jonah’ is now back in Athens, and she, along with my daughter, still remember a lot of the songs,” Reilly said.
The operas are not the only part of ACMS that impacted students, though. While she was heavily involved in the children’s chorus and children’s opera, Reilly also taught piano privately and noticed the lasting effects of her time as an instructor.
“I know the impact of being able to take lessons through ACMS has led to many students continuing their participation in music as adults,” Reilly said. “Recently, I have had the opportunity to chat with parents of some of my former students. One of these students is finishing a degree in physics with a minor in music. Two others are freshman music majors.”
Besides continuing music careers, some former students who have become parents are encouraging their children to pursue music in school in any form, whether it’s “being a participant in band, orchestra or chorus, or even becoming a professional musician.”
Daniel Mullins, a violin and viola instructor for ACMS, has noticed how taking lessons has impacted students’ lives outside of music.
“The Athens Community Music School provides such a good service for students in the area,” Mullins said. “And, of course, wherever there is music, there is culture (and) there is higher learning.”
Mullins also commented that music education affects other parts of students’ lives such as academics and extracurricular activities, and students who learn music at ACMS have a “higher appreciation for everything.”
Mullins and Reilly both said going to the ACMS for instruction gives music students more opportunities than anyone could imagine.
“Just in general, this is an area that is really nice because if you come here, it’s a very big school. But especially in the music school, there’s so many opportunities,” Mullins said. “This is such a good school because you get so many opportunities that you wouldn’t get other places.”
The school is thriving and providing education to students in southeast Ohio, but as Mullins said, he hopes things can become more streamlined toward that goal.
“Where will ACMS go from here?” Mullins said. “I think that this school has a lot of potential to grow and become a really, really, really, really good music school.”