Mason Selectman Charlie Moser volunteers as music coach for MES mariachi band

  • Mason Elementary School music teacher Deborah Prince Smith strikes a celebratory pose after successfully playing a duet with fifth-grader Christopher Greenwood on the xylophone. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Mason Elementary School fifth-grader Alexa Blanhard plays the xylophone. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Mason Select Board Chair Charlie Moser tunes a ukulele for a student. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Mason Select Board Chair Charlie Moser tunes a ukulele for a student. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Mason Select Board Chair Charlie Moser goes through the notes for a song with a ukulele student. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Sheet music for “La Paloma,” performed by the Mason Elementary School mariachi band. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Deborah Prince Smith translates notes on sheet music for xylophone player Christopher Greenwood. STAFF PHOTOS BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Music teacher Deborah Prince Smith reads notes for the xylophone with fifth-grader Alexa Blanchard. STAFF PHOTOS BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Mason Select Board Chair Charlie Moser goes through the notes for a song with a ukulele student. STAFF PHOTOS BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/23/2022 11:04:04 AM

The students of the Mason Elementary School mariachi band know Select Board Chair Charlie Moser as “Mr. Moser.”

“It’s the only place in the world I get respect anymore. No one else calls me that,” Moser joked.

But what else would a group of fifth-graders call a teacher? For that’s what Moser is to several members of the band, particularly the students who are interested in the ukulele. Music teacher Deborah Prince Smith started the band amid COVID-19 precautions. It was an activity that didn’t use wind instruments, or require singing, but still flexed musical muscles.

Moser read an article about the band in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and being a music enthusiast himself, asked if the band could use a community volunteer with some musical knowledge and teaching experience.

Smith said the group has a diverse amount of experience – some members have been getting lessons in an instrument for years, while others were building from scratch. Students were often jumping from instrument to instrument on different songs, so an extra pair of hands, especially one who knew how to read music and could help guide the more advanced students, was welcome. But Smith said it ultimately wasn’t up to her.

“At the end of his first rehearsal with the group, they decided on their own that they needed to vote on whether he should join the group officially. I was touched at their feeling of ownership of the group, and relieved that they voted unanimously for his inclusion,” Smith said.

“I guess I passed the audition,” Moser said.

So, on Thursday, the day of the week the mariachi band meets after school, Moser was there, tuning ukuleles and fishing out a lost pick from one ukulele body.

The group practices a few songs, including the melody from “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” from the recent Disney hit film “Encanto,” using an arrangement simplified for students written by Smith herself. They take the song in sections, with Moser picking out a repeating four-chord progression to have his two ukulele students practice.

Years ago, Moser used to give private music lessons, but he also spends a week every year in Bristol, R.I., teaching mandolin and guitar at the American Mandolin & Guitar Summer School, which accepts students from around the country.

Moser was first introduced to music as an elementary-schooler, learning to play the trumpet in the second grade. He didn’t love the instrument, though, so eventually switched to guitar. And then, in 1974, while visiting a friend, he heard a recording from Old & In the Way, with mandolin and vocals by David Grisman.

“The way Grisman played the mandolin attracted me so much, I went out and bought one,” Moser said. It has been his main instrument ever since, though he still also plays the guitar. What he was not was a ukulele player, but he taught himself the chords when he volunteered to assist the band.

“This is my first ukulele gig. Good thing I’m a fast learner,” Moser said.

Smith said having another teacher in the room allows students to explore more. One member of the band, she said, has really fallen in love with the ukulele, and has really picked up notes and chords.

“That’s the thing about a group like this. When you give kids a chance to do something like this, they can discover their strengths,” Smith said. “That’s the beauty of it. We build on those strengths, and don’t worry about what an individual can’t do.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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