WATERVILLE — Sophia Scheck and Aidan Montmeny strolled up to the stage, raised their violas and bows and performed an exquisite rendition of a double concerto by baroque composer Georg Phillipp Telemann.

The 13-year-olds and their accompanist, pianist Brendan Wilson, received a round of applause from an enthusiastic audience at the First Congregational United Church of Christ on Eustis Parkway.

Scheck and Montmeny were among about 50 students of Pineland Suzuki School, and their teachers, who performed dozens of pieces Saturday, with proceeds to benefit the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.

The youths, ages 4 to 17, were to play for six hours — from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“We think music is a gift,” said Betsy Kobayashi, a violin teacher who co-founded the Pineland group 25 years ago with violin and fiddle teacher Ellen Gawler. “Music is a gift for us, for the kids, and we like the kids to feel that they’re giving also.”

Kobayashi recalled having some students who lived for a while at the homeless shelter. Pineland holds a concert in March to raise money for scholarships for its students who need them and wanted to help the shelter with Saturday’s concert, according to Kobayashi.

“We do a benefit for ourselves, so we just want to do a benefit for someone else, too,” she said.

About 80 students from all around central Maine are part of Pineland Suzuki School, which teaches a method started after World War II in Japan by Shinichi Suzuki.

Kobayashi described it as the “mother tongue method, because they learn music like they learn their mother tongue.”

“It’s a lot of listening and learning to play before reading the music, so music is a part of them, just like language is part of us before we read it,” she said. “That makes it easier to play.”

The children played joyfully Saturday in an interactive setting where their teachers, including Kobayashi and Lori Scheck, Sophia’s mother, performed with them and spoke.

The youths played violin, viola and cello in the church vestry, which has a stage, tall ceilings and large windows that let the outside light in.

“We had a concert here in December and we loved this space,” Kobayashi said. “It is so beautiful. It’s just a beautiful place to play.”

The church hopes to share space with the Children’s Discovery Museum, in Augusta, which hopes to buy the property eventually.

Adults and children of all ages listened Saturday as the musicians performed, sometimes solo or in small groups, and sometimes in large groups. They performed mostly classics and some folk music.

Sophia Scheck, a Waterville Junior High School student, said she started playing violin about eight years ago but switched to viola about four years ago.

“I just fell in love with it. It’s a very beautiful instrument,” she said.

Being part of the Pineland group has been rewarding, she said, adding, “They’re like family to me. I don’t know what I would do without them.” Montmeny, who is home-schooled and lives in Pownal, said he also played violin many years and recently picked up the viola and loves it. He recommends young children learn a stringed instrument.

“It’s hard at first, but when you really learn to play, it becomes very enjoyable,” said Montmeny, whose parents both are musicians. “My dream is to play in a chamber group, like a quartet.”

In the audience Saturday was Maeghan Maloney, district attorney of Somerset and Kennebec counties, whose son Colin, 12, was performing on cello. Maloney’s son Atticus, now a college student, plays violin and learned the Suzuki method as well.

“It’s been huge for the kids,” Maloney said. “Atticus is 19 and started playing the violin when he was 5, and he still plays violin as stress relief in college. It remains a very important part of his life, even though it’s not something he wants to pursue in his career. Colin started playing violin at 5 and fell in love with the cello, and they have a wonderful program here where for $50 a year we can rent a cello.”

Pineland’s cello teachers are Eliza Meyer and Libby Phillips. Students take lessons in teachers’ homes and have group classes once a week at the University of Maine at Augusta, according to Kobayashi.

Gawler will be taking about 25 fiddle students this summer to the Shetland Islands and they are raising money for the trip, according to Kobayashi. Meanwhile, the 19th annual Pineland concert to raise funds for scholarships is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 24 at the Messalonskee Performing Arts Center in Oakland, where tickets will be available at the door.

“It’s mostly for scholarships, and it helps to keep our program at a reasonable cost for everybody; because as students get more advanced, they get more expensive instruments, play for more hours and have longer lessons,” Kobayashi said. “They get really serious about it and it’s not easy to afford. Some of the scholarship funds go toward the programs for the more advanced students, and (some) for everyone.”

Those wanting more information about Pineland may contact the school at 621-4166, email [email protected] or go to the school’s website, pinelandsuzuki.org. The school also has a mailing address of P.O. Box 604, Manchester, ME 04351.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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