Friday, October 28, 2016

Dr. Nickerson semi-finalist for the 2017 Music Educator Award - By Elizabeth Richards

For the second time in four years, Dr. Richard Nickerson, director of choral activities at Windham High School, has been recognized as one of the top music educators in the country. Nickerson has been named a semifinalist for the 2017 Music Educator Award to be presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation. 

Nickerson was named a quarterfinalist for the prestigious award in April of 2013. This year, he is one of 25 semifinalists from an applicant pool of thousands from all 50 states. In December, 10 finalists will be chosen. The final winner will be announced in February 2017, and flown to Los Angeles to receive the award and attend the Grammy Awards.

“It’s a little surreal,” Nickerson said on Tuesday afternoon. “There’s a lot of excitement around here. The students are very excited.”  

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current full time educators from kindergarten through the college level in either public or private schools “who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in schools.”  

Anyone can nominate a teacher for the award. Nickerson was nominated by another music educator, he said. Once nominated, educators are notified and invited to fill out an application that included both school data points and essay questions on teaching philosophy, Nickerson said. After being selected as a quarterfinalist, Nickerson was asked to submit three videos and a written resume. The videos detailed specific points such as teaching philosophy, how he has dealt with challenges, and an uninterrupted video of him teaching, Nickerson said. Now, as far as he knows, the only thing to do is wait for the announcement of finalists. 

Nickerson said he is overwhelmed with the support he feels from the community, especially the people reaching out in the past few days as word got out that he is a semifinalist. “It’s been very humbling,” he said. “I just continue to be so thankful and feel so blessed that I am so well supported by this community, and that they’ve enabled me to take risks, to try different things in this incredible journey that I’m on and bring my students along for the ride.”

Recently, the Windham Chamber Singers performed a nearly sold out show with a Queen tribute band at the Windham Performing Arts Center. “It was so different from anything we’ve ever done, and I think that was one of the things that the community was really into,” Nickerson said. The energy generated that evening was unlike any concert the students have performed, he added, with people literally dancing in the aisles. 

Nickerson has taught at Windham High School for 30 years. He conducts three choirs, teaches music courses, and is the music coordinator for the district. He is also the Minister of Music at North Windham Union Church. 

Nickerson has won many awards, including Maine Music Educator of the Year and Maine Distinguished Choral Director of the Year. In January 2009, he was named one of ten “choral directors of note” in the US by Choral Director Magazine. Nickerson has also been runner-up for Maine Teacher of the Year. Nickerson has conducted in major concert venues throughout the world, and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1998. Last April, he returned to Carnegie Hall to conduct a festival choir made up of singers from Maine.

Nickerson and the chamber singers are hard at work preparing for the American Family Holiday concert on December 3rd, 2016. In April 2017, the group’s spring tour will take them to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Babbs Bridge reopens with a clean look - By Stephen Signor

Last Friday at 10 a.m. the covered bridge that crosses the Presumpscot River and connects Gorham with Windham opened after much needed renovations. The original plan was to just replace openings left in the sides of the bridge from vehicle accidents and replacing the roof from which vandals would make access possible for diving off the span. 

Half way through the project it was decided to install sheathing first behind the siding boards for extra strength and added damage protection, then install all new boards over that on both sides for aesthetics. The added use of cedar resulted in a good looking structure that should last a long time.
“With the changes the original price tag of $89,000 increased to $108,000, but well worth it,” a MDOT worker shared. “It’s up to the users of the bridge now how long the overall condition lasts.”

At 10:20 a.m. the first car drove across from the Gorham side. “It’s nice to see this done. They did a great job,” said the happy motorist who wished to remain anonymous. He also expressed concern regarding the history of vandals. “Last summer there was a surveillance camera placed high up on a tree by the Gorham Police Department. This was an effective deterrent. I don’t know why they took it down, but the moment they did the vandalism continued.” 

 “The covered bridge will remain unpainted so it can age naturally and gain that weathered look,” explained a representative from Doten Construction, Inc. of Freeport who worked on the project.
Babb’s Bridge is one of the few covered bridges left in New England.

Jordan River milfoil problem brought to bay - By Walter Lunt

Grants, dues, donations and determination transform a green bottom to an almost clear channel

A busy stretch of Raymond’s Jordan River, once choked with invasive milfoil, is now virtually weed free.

“Back in 2006 (the milfoil) was so thick it was flowering on top of the water,” said Gale Pillsbury of the Jordan River Marina Condominium Association, a loose consortium of stakeholders along the waterway. Known as Panther Run, the section of river from the bridge near the intersection of Routes 302 and 85 is lined with boat slips and drains into Sebago Lake.

Pillsbury described the channel as a collection point for the spreading plant, which can be brought in on boats from the lake, as well as deposited from the downstream flow of the river.

“We attacked the problem in several different ways for a few years,” she explained. Crews of divers plucked the weed, a variety known as variable milfoil, while residents hauled the tangled chunks of green by wheel barrow to load onto trucks. Now, she said, a firm out of Brownfield, Maine, has transformed an ongoing crisis into a much simpler maintenance task.

On a recent October morning, divers from New England Milfoil, Allan Arnold and Sam Dyer removed the last 170 gallons of milfoil from the waterway, utilizing Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting (DASH). Dyer said that amount compares with about 1,300 gallons during the same period last year.

“We’re getting it close to a managerial situation,” he added. Both divers agree this stretch of river is in a no-win zone because the milfoil comes in from both directions. Dyer fingered a tiny milfoil fragment and said, “This can go to seed, re-root and create hundreds of new plants.”

The two divers worked in close coordination from their DASH boat, clearing an area around empty boat slips at Indian Point near the mouth of the river. Arnold, a tender, operated a noisy suction machine aboard the boat, while Dyer, underwater along the shallow shore, pulled the weeds and fed them into the suction dredge. The plants end up in 10 gallon containers and were then taken to a composting facility. Arnold observed that despite the ugly problem created by the thick, wriggly plant, “This stuff can grow up to seven feet tall, and when you’re diving in 10 feet of water in a heavy infestation where it grows like a forest, it can be a pretty impressive sight.”

“These last two years have been great. They stay on top of the problem. It makes it easier for us,” said Jonathon Korda of the Indian Point Owners Association.

Pillsbury said the milfoil eradication effort is funded with money from grants, dues from the two condominium associations, and donations from the boat sales marina on Panther Run. Grants are available from Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection which utilizes funds from the state’s milfoil sticker program.

She summed up the association’s progress over the past two years. With an average of 15 dives per year, N.E.M. removed 11,100 gallons of milfoil in 2015, and only 6,960 gallons this 2016 season. The progress is clear.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Windham Chamber Singers rock with Queen Tribute band - By Stephen Signor

A clear October night, a full moon beckoned those with the urge to display their wild side. They showed up at Windham Performing Arts Center for a concert that featured Master Stroke, a Queen Tribute band, along with the Windham Chamber Singers lead by conductor Richard Nickerson. The show, billed as “A Night with the Choir,” was based on the success of Sean Slaughter’s Queen Tribute Shows at Port City Music Hall. Slaughter, a veteran of the Portland music, scene put together an all-star lineup that promised to rock the house. Master Stroke’s billing was a collaborative effort. “Rick got in touch with me after he saw us at another show and asked if we would be willing to put on this one,” Slaughter said. 

In a release prior to the show Slaughter shared, "We have heard so many fantastic things about the Windham Chamber Singers! We are honored and flattered that we have been invited to perform with them! Most importantly, we want to rock Windham!" 

Nickerson also commented beforehand, “We are thrilled that we have the opportunity to share the stage with Sean and his band, Master Stroke. We are excited to continue our tradition of bringing the highest quality performers to Windham. This will certainly be the Windham Chamber Singers as you have never heard them before.”

A capacity crowd of every age group packed the house, each with their own agenda. “I was in the choir last year and years prior,” said Derek Barnhouse, a recent graduate of WHS and a fan of Queen. “But I’m here for both. My favorite song by Queen is ‘Somebody to Love’,” he continued.
Janet, another local resident was anxious to see a family member sing along with Stroke. “My grandson is in backup for the choir,” stated Janet. Like others this night she was getting the best of both worlds. “My favorite Queen song is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’,” she shared.

When the lights faded the crowd responded as the Windham Chamber Singers made their way onto the stage. Master Stroke would soon follow. The ear plugs that were handed out at the door proved to be very useful, from the opening musical note until the very end, over two hours later.
During the first set the crowd was transported back in time to the tune of hits that included “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Under Pressure”, “Bicycle Race”, “Killer Queen” and “Flat Bottom Girls.” The Windham Chamber Singers presence on the stage was electrifying. And when they were not singing they were moving to the beat. The combination seemed to feed off one another and the fans responded. During the break the hallway was buzzing. Donna, a postal worker was not surprised. “I just saw Stroke three weeks ago and they were amazing then, too,” she said.

After the break, Stroke opened up with “Another One Bites the Dust.” This is all the crowd would need to reignite their senses. Following up with top ten hits that included, “Somebody to Love” and “We Are The Champions”, the show would end with an encore performance of “We Will Rock You” and a very grateful thanks to the Windham Chamber Singers. Together they all lined up along the stage for their accolades. 

“The crowd was awesome! This venue is incredible. It’s the largest stage in Maine so it’s the largest I’ve played on. When I first came here I was blown away how beautiful this room is and how awesome the program is. The acoustics are amazing,” said Slaughter.

In regard to having the choir on stage Slaughter said “With Rick and everyone involved in the arts program you can tell they really know what they’re doing. He’s done a great job here.”

“It was such thrills to see months of hard work culminate last night on that stage. There was an amazing energy in the auditorium last night from both the performers and audience. I don't ever remember a concert that had audience members literally dancing in the aisles! It was thrilling to see all of the different age groups come together and bring this music to life. We are so thankful for the support that we receive from our community. Last night was another great night for the Town of Windham,” said Nickerson.

The choir was in total agreement. “I had a wonderful time combining two things that I love, choral singing and the music of Queen!” said junior Libby McBride. She wasn’t the only one. “Performing with the band was one of the coolest experiences ever! I had such a fun time,” said sophomore Anne Stevens.”

”I don’t have anything booked with band right now. This is only our third show,” said Slaughter. Explaining the short time to success, he added, “All the people that play in this band are top notch musicians.”

However Slaughter is playing locally with his other band. “The original band I was in, John Hughes Radio is having a Halloween themed concert at the Empire in Portland on October 28th. There will be a costume party with contest and will show local made horror short films during the 15 minute or so break in between the two other bands, Holy Smoke and Diabligato, that will be playing,” he shared. 

Meanwhile, the Windham Chamber Singers are also gearing up for another performance. The winter concert, “An American Family Holiday,” will be held Saturday December 3rd at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature special guests Lindsay Mendez and Daniel Strange.

For more information on these events, visit and                      

Local Clark University student expands learning in Columbia - By Elizabeth Richards

In early June 2016, Sydney Tanguay took advantage of an educational opportunity that allowed her to visit another country, feed her love of gardening, and expand her views on entrepreneurial start-ups. The 21-year old senior at Clark University applied for funding through the University’s Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) program, and was awarded $2,000 towards the 10 day trip.

Tanguay, a Windham native and 2013 Windham High School graduate, is in an accelerated master’s program, working towards an MBA with a concentration in sustainability. Tanguay saw the trip advertised by her professor, John Dobson, who accompanied her and three other students to Bogotá, Colombia. Tanguay said she applied because she had never been out of the country. 

“Declaring my MBA this semester I was looking forward to experiencing cultural differences and a new view on entrepreneurial start-ups,” she said. The research project in urban agriculture also coincided with the love of gardening Tanguay developed as a young girl working in the family gardens with her mother. 

The students worked with Fundación Mujeres Empresarias Marie Poussepin, a nonprofit organization that works to train women head of households as entrepreneurs in urban agriculture and ecological art. 
The organization helps women establish backyard gardens where they can grow organic produce. The students from Clark also collaborated with students from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Bogotá.

Tanguay said some highlights of the trip included experiencing Columbian hospitality and seeing the passion the women had for improving their lives with known skills, community needs, and their love of gardening. “The food was absolutely to die for and the women never let us go hungry!” she added.
On their first day in Bogotá, the students took an eco-tour through the mountains to get a feel for how rich the volcanic soil was. Tanguay described the outing as “just like mudding in Maine, but the scenery was entirely different and just as beautiful!” the days that followed, the students toured gardens at the home of the women entrepreneurs, met with students from Javeriana, performed a market analysis, and formulated methods designed by their professor to help improve the women’s businesses by creating new markets and increasing profitability. Additionally, the students reconstructed a garden for one of the women, Señora Olmeira. “Today the garden is flourishing with wonderful fruits, vegetables, and flowers for both ornamental and medicinal usage,” said Tanguay. 

The Clark University students rounded out their trip by visiting Cartegna for two days, enjoying the beach and another aspect of Colombia’s culture, Tanguay said. 

Tanguay said the only challenge she experienced was a language barrier. She grew up learning French, but had no experience with Spanish. “I strived to be able to talk to everyone face to face rather than through other students who would translate for me,” Tanguay said. “Everyone was very patient with me and I greatly appreciated their acceptance of my lack of knowledge. I just wish I could have connected more with the women in that way.”

Tanguay said her role on the trip was “to learn and observe multicultural business development and
[act] as an advisor to their organization to expand their passions and establishment towards greater profitability.” She was pleased with the collaboration between all parties, and said, “I hope to visit within the next two years to continue work with them and the professor to gain more knowledge of urban agriculture and share advancements in my personal and professional life. I've come to make great friends and possible global business connections because of this opportunity and I am grateful for such an exciting adventure.”