Athens, Ohio is known for many hidden treasures, especially when it comes to music, and Athens Community Music School is just one of those. Founded in 1979, the Athens Community Music School, or ACMS, has been the principal source of music instruction in Southeast Ohio.
Located in Glidden Hall, the school offers an array of private lessons to learn various instruments, including piano, woodwind, brass, percussion, stringed instruments and voice. Additionally, those interested in working on their musical skills can participate in group instruction as well.
“We have a pretty wide variety of lessons available, and the lessons are one-on-one, so if they're private lessons, it's just the student and the teacher and then if a parent wants to sit in they can join in too,” Wendy Blackwood, director of the ACMS, said. “Those lessons are specifically planned for that student, so it's really specific to that student. The lessons are weekly, so the kids are getting a lot of one-on-one time with their instructor.”
Although ACMS provides musical training, it also strives to help people via music therapy. The school is a current partner with the Ohio University Music Therapy Department, allowing individuals of all ages with needs to develop behavioral, emotional and social skills through music.
“Music therapy is provided by a graduate student who is also already a licensed music therapist, so she is licensed to practice in Ohio,” Blackwood said. “For students who already have a diagnosis and already know that music therapy is something that they're interested in or their parents know that that's something that they're interested in, it's a really good place to get started.”
Blackwood was hired in 2006 as a piano teacher and became the sole director of the ACMS in 2018, taking charge of the music school and promoting music education for those in and outside of Ohio University.
“I think it (ACMS) serves a really important purpose in the community because there are music teachers teaching private lessons in the community, but there's not very many,” Blackwood said. “This is a great place to come and get some qualified music instruction from the students here. We really love our community students that come to us and having the chance to work with them here on campus is really rewarding.”
Melissa Brobeck, a vocal master teacher at ACMS, says that she loves working at the music school and teaching all age groups, her oldest once being a 75-year-old woman.
“I love working for the (Athens) Community Music School because there's such a broad mix of students who come in here, and a lot of times, there are people who just want to sing or love to sing,” Brobeck said. “It is an opportunity for me to help them find their voice – literally – and for them to find a new means of self-expression and learn something about themselves.”
In terms of vocal lessons, Brobeck says they’re very accessible to those on campus, offering the opportunity for people to express their passion for music in their free time.
“I think for students on campus, the music school offers an opportunity for people who maybe have a passion or a love of music or played an instrument or sang to continue their studies while they're in school here,” Brobeck said.
Students also agree with Brobeck, excited to see a music school so eager to foster creativity and inclusion.
“I think that it’s really cool that it provides an opportunity for everybody,” Becca Cundiss, a sophomore studying music production and recording industry, said.
Blackwood says that the ACMS will be hosting their annual winter recitals to showcase music students on December 3, and Brobeck recommends checking out their Choral Union concert on Oct. 9.
“I feel singing is very personal for a lot of people, and it's usually a journey of self-discovery,” Brobeck said. “It's just been so great to have the space to go on these journeys with people as they discover things about themselves and their voice.”