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      Playing to new future

      After some rocky years, the Baraga Area School's music department has new life. They've seen several changes which have made the program grow, and it all started with a new teacher.

      Music students have found their beat again, and they're getting in tune for a grand Christmas concert.

      Students say in the last two years they have built a relationship with each other.

      "It's a really small group, but even if it wasn't a small group, we'd still know a lot about each other 'cause we're just so close, and the atmosphere of the classroom, like, we just feel completely at home," said Elizabeth Morin, a junior.

      However, this was not the case two years ago. The music department didn't have a structured curriculum and a couple of different teachers came through and left since 2004, leaving the department out of shape. To top it off, there was only one band class for grades 7 to 12, making it harder for students to learn.

      "For just starting, I've never seen anything but the essential elements book. I didn't know how to read music, I didn't know how to match pitches," said Winter Keefer, junior.

      So when Emily Mayer became the music teacher in 2010, she separated the classes based on learning levels. She says instruments were missing, there were students who didn't care, and those who did were looking to develop their talent.

      "The numbers were down, the interest was down, the morale of the music department wasn't really good. I've been working really hard to strive to try to change that, and the kids are really excited about it," said Mayer.

      Ms. Mayer has brought back a marching band, taken them to perform in a solo ensemble, and encouraged them to participate in a band camp.

      Since the addition of Ms. Mayer and changes to the curriculum, students are starting to consider pursuing music as a career. Some students say although they enjoy playing an instrument or singing in the choir, it was just a hobby until now.

      "I can read rhythms that I couldn't before. I know more about the theory of it and how to work in other band situations because of the honors band we were opened up to. I'm actually thinking of going into music ed," Keefer said.

      Ms. Mayer says there are more changes to be made and more performance opportunities to come. For now they will continue rehearsing for the Christmas concert on December 20.