Florida Keys News
Saturday, June 28, 2014
BERKLEE OR BUST
Push is on to send teens to legendary school

The talented brothers Maxime may have been born on different Caribbean islands, but both Melson, 18, and Rodney, 16, grew up with a love of rhythm and playing the drums. Now living in Key West, the youngsters are staring the biggest musical opportunity of their young lives in the face.

They've each won a summer scholarship to study at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston. All they have to do is come up with the rest of their travel and living expenses.

From 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Smokin' Tuna Saloon, 4 Charles St., Bahama Village Music Program will host a farewell party/gig for the aspiring drummers, including performances by Larry Baeder and Nick Norman, as well as the boys, a silent auction and raffle, and a bidding war to cut Baeder's ponytail.

Both brothers are already holding down jobs, and have other local commitments and interests on the go, including working as student/teachers at the Bahama Village Music Program (BMVP). But as anyone who's been there knows, Beantown isn't cheap.

Beginning July 12, the boys will be staying in different blocks on the Berklee campus for five weeks, where they'll learn everything from music theory to live performance. At the end of the program, the Maximes and their classmates will perform in a finale concert that will be webcast, so that their Key West fans and supporters can check out what they've learned.

"I know all eyes are on us, and we are ready to make everyone proud," Melson Maxine said.

The BVMP has come a long way since its founding by local music teacher Robin Kaplan in 1999 as a way to honor the legacy of the late Key West music instructor Ellen Sanchez. The latter had taught generations of Key West students, and even composed a classic ditty entitled "The Beautiful Isle of Key West," before retiring in 1974.

Sanchez passed in 2008 at the age of 105, but not before Kaplan recruited her out of retirement to help keep enthusiasm for local music instruction alive in the neighborhood that produced one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Theodore "Fats" Navarro.

The original BMVP took shape in a building on Front Street. After Hurricane Wilma, the program has moved to a space at the Frederick Douglass community center, 103 Olivia St., that is roomier and cozier.

Nowadays, the BVMP provides free musical education for 157 students from all over Key West. Some 17 student teachers are employed at the Olivia Street school and receive a small stipend for their efforts.

There's even been talk of opening a second branch of the BVMP at a planned community center on Stock Island, where many BVMP students live these days.

Katchen Duncan, the school's program director, has been associated with school since 2002 and has known the Maxime boys for 10 years.

She's thrilled that BVMP, as members of the online Berklee City Music Network (http://berkleecitymusicnetwork.org) can count on a pair of similar five-week summer scholarships each year, In addition, each BMVP student has a password to study at Berklee online for free.

"I'm so proud of Melson and Rodney and all their musical accomplishments," Duncan said. "This is an amazing opportunity for these young men, and their lives will be forever changed by this experience. The Berklee five-week summer program is a chance to be completely immersed in all aspects of performance under the instruction of world-class educators. The boys are excited to learn and bring their new-found knowledge back to their young students at BVMP. The support of our community has been unbelievable. Key West really knows the importance of music education."

Baeder, who is himself a Berklee alumnus and a member of the BVMP board, is equally supportive of the Maximes.

"We are so proud of Rodney and Melson," he said. "These are two fantastic kids. But we're particularly proud to be able to send them to study with some of the best teachers and students in the world. They're going to bring all that knowledge, and the interpersonal skills they learn, back to Key West and use it to teach other students at the BMVP. There's no way you can put a value on that kind of knowledge."

The Maxime brothers still need to raise about $2,000.

For information, or to make a donation, call 305-240-1923, or send an email to info@bvmpkw.org.

tschmida@keysnews.com

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