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Thinking about
music lessons?

Lessons are fun, affordable, and the value lasts a lifetime. It's never too late to start. Anybody can do it with a little help! Try an instrument for free and see how much fun you'll have... Violin, cello, flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, trombone, percussion. Contact Mr. Mackail any time for information.




Curt Mackail
music instructor
e-mail Mr. Mackail

Meghan McCrillis
SMS music teacher
e-mail Ms. McCrillis

39 Gifford Farm Road
Stratham, NH  03885
telephone 772-5413

click for SMS Web site

Exeter Music
135 Water Street
Exeter, NH
Exeter Music Web site

Music and Arts Center
18 March Avenue
Manchester, NH 03101
telephone 623-0153
click for Web site

Music and Arts
Company Call Center 
All Customer Service

 Who We Are is operated for the convenience of Stratham Memorial School music students by Curt Mackail. Mr. Mackail is an instrumental music instructor and band director at SMS.

Please send questions or comments to Mr. Mackail by clicking here.

Welcome to, the online home for SMS music students and their parents, teachers, and friends. Inside you'll find games, videos, and lots of useful stuff. If you have a question or comment, please click here to send a message.


 Never Too Late to Start Lessons

You may register for lessons at any time. Please contact Mr. Mackail to learn more. Click here to automatically open an e-mail message and ask for assistance. There's no obligation, and all 4th and 5th graders are eligible. There's even tuition assistance for qualifying families. 





Lessons are cancelled if school is closed or after-school activites are curtailed due to weather or any other reason.

On early release days when the building remains open, (for example, parent conference days) lessons occur at their regularly scheduled time.

Please call the SMS office at 772-5413 during school hours if you have a question about whether after-school activites will be conducted.


 Music Books

Lesson book for strings.
"Essential Elements 2000 for Strings"
Violin, Book One, 
or Cello, Book One. 
Hal Leonard publisher.
Available online at
or local purchase at Exeter Music.


Lesson book for band instruments.
"Standard of Excellence" Book One.
Make sure you get the one for your instrument.
KJOS publisher. 
Available online at
or local purchase at Exeter Music.


Lesson book for percussion.
"Snare Drum Method by Vic Firth," Book One
Vic Firth and Carl Fischer publisher.
Available online at
or local purchase at Exeter Music.


To return, exchange or repair a rental instrument, first call the rental company. The company will provide instructions. The Music & Arts customer service number to call is  (888) 731-5396. For assistance in obtaining an instrument to replace your rental, please contact Mr. Mackail.


 Instrument Repair and Maintenance

Just like an automobile, your instrument requires maintenance and repair. Repair should be performed by a qualified person. It's unwise to attempt repairs yourself. Rental instruments are sent back to the rental company for repair. You must contact the rental company for a return authorization. If you own your instrument, a big advantage is that most repairs and virtually all maintenance procedures can be performed in-house without excessive cost or delays.

 Sign-up Forms
Click a link and the form will display. Print the form and return to the SMS Music Room, please.

 Click for Music Lesson Semester Calendar

Music Lessons at SMS
Violin • Cello • Flute  • Clarinet • Saxophone • Trumpet • Trombone • Euphonium • Percussion

Calendar for 2016-2017

Mr. Mackail's students follow the calendar below.

Sept. 12 through September 30
Optional “ala carte” lessons for 5th graders. After school by appointment. Priced individually, no advance purchase necessary. Contact

Monday, September 12 or sooner
Music lesson registration forms distributed to students in school.

Thursday, September 22 Music Open House, 6:30 in Music Room
Music lesson open house and info session for students and parents. Meet Mr. Mackail and get answers to any questions you have about instrument selection, music lessons, and band or orchestra. Hosted in the SMS music room at 6:30.

Friday, September 23  
Deadline for return of lesson registration forms and instrument rental sign up. Return your forms to music room please.
Monday, September 26, to Friday, September 30
The schedule for music lessons is worked out. 


Monday, October 3
Semester I lessons begin.

Monday, October 10
No lessons, Columbus Day

Friday, October 21
Trial period ends, last day to cancel

Tuesday, November 8
No lessons. Teacher inservice (no school.)

Friday, November 11
No lessons. Veterans Day (no school.)

November 21-25
No regular lessons all this week - Thanksgiving Holiday

Important note:
Monday, November 21 Makeup lessons for October 10
Tuesday, November 22 Makeup lessons for November 8

December 26 - January 2
No regular lessons - Holiday Vacation Period

January 3
Semester I lessons resume

January 16
No lessons - school closed for Dr. Martin Luther King Day

January 20
Semester I Regular Lessons End 

January 23-27
Semester I Make-Up Lesson Week

Friday, January 27
Semester I concludes


Monday, January 30

Semester II begins

February 27-March 3
No Lessons - Winter Vacation

Friday, March 17
No lessons - school closed for teacher in-service

April 24-28
No Lessons - Spring Vacation

Friday, May 26
Semester II Regular Lessons End 

Monday, May 29
No lessons - school closed for Memorial Day

May 30 - June 5 
Make-Up Lesson Week

Monday, June 5
Semester II concludes

Refunds: You may cancel during the first three weeks of the first semester (trial period) and receive a refund of unused tuition minus a 10 percent administrative fee. Otherwise, tuition payment is non-refundable and credits are not issued. Lessons that cannot be provided as scheduled because of school closures or weather will be offered during the Lesson Make-Up Week at the end of each semester. Sorry, student absences due to sickness, schedule conflicts or personal matters are not refundable. By permission, students may make up lessons missed due to sickness as time permits.

More Information: Have a question or need more information? Please contact Mr. Mackail. E-mail works best and gets the quickest response!

 Music in Our School


 TIPS - Buying an Instrument
click to open

The Best Choice
The best choice among instruments for a young musician is a student- or intermediate-level model from a reputable manufacturer.

A used instrument from a recommended manufacturer represents the best value for money spent. New is nice, but used is fine for beginners.

Resist the temptation to buy a new, cheap instrument. You may find new instruments advertised for a fraction of the cost of those from reputable makers. Most of the bargain instruments are made in Chinese or Indian factories and are of poor quality (or worse.) Music repair people and virtually all instructors will tell you that an older instrument in good playing condition from a respected manufacturer is a far better choice than a new, cheap instrument. The cheap instruments are famous for several key faults: poor intonation, poor-quality metal and construction, they may be hard to play, and are usually not easily maintained or repairable when they break.

How Instruments are Sold
Instruments are first categorized as new or used. Next, they are categorized by quality and features. The three quality categories are beginner, intermediate and professional.

Used instruments are further categorized in the trade by condition. The following standards are generally accepted.

AS NEW --- Cannot be distinguished from a new instrument
EXCELLENT --- No scratches or dents, plays perfectly
VERY GOOD or GOOD --- Minor scratching or blemishes, plays well, needs no repair or service
FAIR --- Shows wear consistent with its age, may have moderate lacquer loss, moderate scratching and denting, may require routine service but not major repair or overhaul,
POOR --- Shows significant cosmetic or mechanical wear, may require major service or overhaul but is restorable
SALVAGE --- Is not feasibly restorable and is useful only for parts or as decoration

Pricing Used Instruments
Used instruments are fairly priced according to a general rule of thumb. Start with a reference value that is the retail price of the same or similar instrument if purchased new right now. For illustration, let's say that reference price is $1000. Then observe the following:

For used in AS NEW condition, subtract 25 percent from the reference price. Therefore, expect to pay around $750.
For EXCELLENT CONDITION subtract 20 percent of the remaining value and expect to pay around $600.
For GOOD CONDITION expect to pay $475
For FAIR CONDITION expect to pay $325.
For POOR CONDITION expect to pay $150.
For SALVAGE, expect to pay from $25 to $50.

For an instrument in poor mechanical condition, get a repair estimate first. Then subtract the repair cost from the value of the instrument after it is repaired to determine if the purchase is a wise investment. Obviously, if it costs more to repair the instrument than it will be worth after the repair, you shouldn't purchase it.

Buying on eBay or Craigslist

There are some good instruments to be had through private sellers' networks but finding them can be a crap shoot unless you know what you're doing. You should be absolutely sure that the instrument you're buying is in good playing condition and is what the seller represents it to be. An instrument that looks good on the outside or in a picture may actually require maintenance or repairs that can run into hundreds of dollars. As a general rule, do not buy an instrument sight unseen or if it is not tested by a reliable musician. Sellers frequently do not know much about musical instruments and may represent the item as being "in great condition," or "barely used" or "plays great" when the horn actually requires repadding, slide repair or valve restoration. All of those procedures can be expensive. Buy a used instrument just like you'd buy a used car. Have it checked out by a professional, and ask for a warranty. It is strongly recommended that you buy used instruments from a reputable, local band instrument music store or local seller who will stand behind the instrument's condition. 

How Much to Pay for a New Instrument
New instruments typically sell for a "street price" of from 25 to 40 percent discount from the manufacturer's recommended retail price. Virtually all music stores and online retail instrument sellers sell new instruments for around the same "street price."

What to Avoid
Do not purchase a new instrument that is deeply discounted compared to reputable brands. Most of these very cheap horns are mass-produced in China and India. These instruments are virtually always a bad investment, despite the low price. The problems include: very poor fabrication materials (metallurgy, pads, springs, laquer,) poor workmanship (robot construction or untrained factory laborers,) and absent quality control (instruments are misaligned or misfitted, not adjusted nor are they play-tested.) In the reputable trade, these cheap imports have gained the desultory name "Instrument Shaped Objects" or ISOs. This is because they superficially appear to be a nice instrument but are actually severely deficient. Warning signs of a bad instrument include: instruments that are brightly colored (pink, green, purple, orange, etc.,) instruments that are shown as "Band Approved," "Band Certified" or "Director Recommended," instruments that are marketed with deceptive spellings of reputable brands. Avoid any instrument that is unbranded. Although $150 may seem like a great deal for a new clarinet from an online seller, in reality you are likely to be throwing your money away on an "Instrument Shaped Object."

Recommended Instruments for Beginners - Top-rated, modern student models
Flute - Yamaha, Gemeinhart
Clarinet - Yamaha, Buffet, Vito, Leblanc Noblet
Saxophone - Yamaha, Vito
Trumpet - Yamaha, Bach, Conn, King
Trombone - Yamaha, Bach, Conn, King

Reputable Brand Names
* asterisks indicates approximate ratings for newer student models
Note: Age and condition are extremely important variables. Most reputable makers have been manufacturing instruments for many decades. The exact instrument model is important. Buy locally from a music store or seller who will stand behind the purchase.

Bach*** Benge** E.K. Blessing** Bundy**
Conn-Selmer** King*** Holton** Leblanc*
Vito*** Allora* Yamaha**** Besson**
Getzen*** Gemeinhardt***


Buffet Crampon*** Eastman** Jupiter* Keilwerth (pro)
Yanagisawa (pro) Carol Brass (pro) Schilke (pro) Austin Brass (pro)
Shires (pro) Kantsul**** Jupiter* Amati*
Armstrong** F.E. Olds ** Artley* Emerson*
E.M. Winston* Boosey & Hawkes** B&S*** Monette**
R.S. Berkeley* Avanti Flutes** Courtois** Martin (band)**

Instrument Brands to Avoid

Any "no name" horn Cecilio First Act Monique
Etude Prodigy Allora J. Enrich
Selmar (note spelling) Selman (note spelling) College Pro Hawk
Bessons (note spelling) Barrington Atlantis BandNow
BandPro Rossetti Barclay L.A. Sax
Jean-Baptiste Maxtone Steuben Wurlitzer
Nova Vega Parrot Monique
Merano Maestro Lark Laval
DC Pro Brasswind Antiqua Raisons
Morelli Rossetti Standell Eldorado
Alpine D'Luca Anaxa "German Engineered"
Mendini Bartok 2Kool4Skool  Kohlert (new or recent)


More on the ever-growing list of instrument brands to avoid. All can be expected to offer poor intonation, less than quality workmanship, cheap material and keys, no replacement parts available, and the cost of repair vs the cost of clarinet. If the instruments played in tune, they could be considered "disposable." That is, when they need repair you just throw them away. But virtually all are a bad investment because they play out of tune and are very cheaply made. Most are cheap Chinese, others may come from other Asian factories or India.

Aria 1851
Austin Bazaar
Beltone 400
Blue Moon
Elkhart Series
First Act

Gibson Baldwin
Glenn Edward
Harmony Deluxe
J Michael
Largo Australia
Mendini by Cecilio
Roy Benson
Swing Street
Top Tone