Morgan Wass, 17, playing drums and flute with Rylee Sinclair,17, on ukulele at Baxter Academy
Morgan Wass, 17, says she wrestled with the decision to leave Massabesic High School in favor of Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland.
She knew the charter school would be a better fit academically, but she was hesitant to leave the high school’s well established music program. The Junior is an accomplished clarinet player, who also plays flute and percussion.

“I was really active in the school band,” she recalled. Like many other charter schools, Baxter Academy doesn’t have a traditional music program. This is one of the areas where 317 Main’s Partnership Programs are filling the gap.
This spring, 317 Main teaching artists are making music in seven schools, including East End Community School, Wayfinder, Casco Bay High School, Rowe School, Yarmouth Elementary School, North Yarmouth Academy and Baxter Academy.
Baxter Academy Students rehearsing
Baxter Academy Students rehearsing “Cheer Up”
Wass is one of five Baxter students who signed up for a Blues Ensemble with teaching artist Kate Campbell Strauss. Another seven students are studying voice with partnership educator Jeff Christmas.
Campbell Strauss says she started the semester teaching the history of the blues and slowly wove in more playing as she became familiar with the students’ interests and playing ability.
“I try to arrange the songs to showcase the skills of each student while also challenging them to take some risks,” she says.
Now nearing the end of the semester the ensemble is preparing to put on a concert.
“It’s just been really nice to have an opportunity to play music at our school,” said Griffin Gingrich, 17, who sings and plays ukelele with the group.
True to her teacher’s goal, Wass has pushed herself.
“I don’t usually sing,” she said. On another song, she’s playing flute while keeping time on the drums – not an easy feat.  While she sometimes misses her old high school band, Wass says she has discovered something new.
“It’s cool to be doing music in a looser, more creative way,” she said.