Douglas Merriman: Exposing Youth to Culture and Music

Eight year old Douglas Merriman, Prospect resident, didn’t have much interest in music, but that all changed when his mother brought him to a symphony that sparked his love for classical music. From that moment on, Merriman’s life was dedicated to immersing himself in music, and sharing his love using his favorite instrument: the violin.

Living by the mantra, “People get in the habit of taking too much; they forget to give,” Merriman has dedicated his entire life to exposing the younger generations to culture, history, and music.

Since retiring from teaching in 1992, Merriman frequently volunteers at Algonquin Elementary School, engulfing students in a cultural experience of classical music and history. He travels to fifth grade classes, teaching students about what Merriman describes as one of the greatest historical figures in America: Abraham Lincoln. Merriman expresses his enthusiasm towards the Civil War, and wants to share his passion with the next generations.

“If you forget about history, there’s a good chance you’ll make the same mistakes,” said Merriman.

Although history is a substantial aspect in Merriman’s life, his true passion lies with music. After he began playing at the Waterbury Youth Symphony at eight years old, music became a huge component in his life.

“Music can be so influential,” explained Merriman. “It can make the youth so much more receptive.”

Merriman believes that the classical genre of music is not introduced to the younger generations enough, and he loves to share what he has learned to expand the knowledge of his youth.

But music isn’t just a hobby to Merriman; it is his salvation.

“Music gets me through, it always has,” he explained.

He shares that music got him through one of the hardest moments in his life, the death of his wife. Silvia and Douglas Merriman had a marriage of over 58 years when she passed away due to Alzheimer complications. She, too, was a lover of the arts, but focused her passion on painting– most known for her portraits of her family and pets. Silvia was a strong supporter in Merriman’s musical interests, and it is those same interests that keep him going.

Merriman has played the violin for seventy-two years, and has experienced great opportunities to meet others that share his passion and spread his love for music.

From 1994 to 2004, Merriman worked with Colgate University of the Liberal Arts in Hamilton, New York, and will be returning to the string Quartet again this year. He will be involved with the Manhattan String Quartet, a well established group that has traveled frequently between North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia performing classical pieces. He explains that it is important to maintain his ability and keep learning, which is why he is returning to the Quartet again this year. He practices almost everyday, and believes that as a senior citizen, one must keep busy and contribute.

He explains that being an active and productive citizen is crucial. This is why he travels throughout schools, and shares the skills and wisdom he has obtained over the years.

Along with volunteering and sharing his passion with younger generations, Merriman has been on the town council and at one point on the board of education. He simply loves his town, and will do anything to be involved.

He also has visited classes at Algonquin, and most recently at Woodland, to educate students on the cultural aspects of music, and move them with his incredible talent.

“It really enlightened me to see someone so passionate and doing what they love,” shares Leigh-Anne Barreira, senior at Woodland.

Merriman explains that there is so much classical music all around the world that is not heard enough, and it is essential to pass down culture. The community of Prospect and Beacon Falls has been in his family for ninety years, and has raised and educated his children. There is even a street, Merriman Lane, dedicated to his family and their contributions to the town. He feels that the key is exposure.

And for this reason, he enlightens youth on culture, history, and music in hopes to spark interest in the subjects, and introduce them to new things. Merriman is an inspiration and brings years of passion and intellect to his community.

“You never know how important one thing can be,” shared Merriman. “You would never think that playing a recorder in fourth grade will spark a love for music. You just need to be exposed and try everything.”