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Newtown has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education for the tenth time.
According to NAMM, 583 districts and 135 schools nationwide were recognized with the distinction this year. In Connecticut, 18 school districts were recognized. Other school districts that received the honor were Bethel, Bristol, Canton, Cheshire, the Consolidated School district of New Britain, East Windsor, Fairfield, Glastonbury, Newington, the Northwestern Regional School District No. 7, the Regional School District No 8, Simbury, Southington, Torrington, West Hartford, Westport, and Wilton.
The Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Newtown answered questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.
According to a release from the Newtown Public Schools district, the award recognizes that Newtown is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation guides implementation in the states and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.
More than 70 percent of all students in prekindergarten to twelfth grade participate in the Newtown Public School’s music program, according to the district. Curricular offerings follow the national and state standards for music education and include general music, chorus, band, orchestra, percussion ensemble, jazz improvisation, music technology, harmony and composition, and advanced placement music theory.
Many of those students also participate in extracurricular ensembles, including Jazz Band, Marching Band, Honors Band, Bucket Band, annual musical productions, Chamber Orchestra, Singers, Concert Choir, male and female a capella groups, New Music Ensemble, Color Guard, Winter Guard, and Winter Percussion, according to the district. Several students representing Reed Intermediate, Newtown Middle School, and Newtown High School were selected to participate in this year’s regional, state, and national music festivals.
Many students take private lessons with professional musicians through the Visiting Artist Program. Younger students are benefiting from High School/Elementary School Music Mentoring Association (HEMMA), which has NHS students tutor younger children in beginning instrumental lessons and music theory skills. Music students frequently perform for school and community events and have traveled the world representing Newtown and making music, according to the district.
Michelle Hiscavich, Newtown’s director of visual and performing arts, said in the district’s release, she is “proud to have the hard work and efforts of the music teachers recognized, and appreciates that the Newtown community acknowledges the value of the arts in every child’s education.
The study of music enables our students to become well-rounded individuals. In addition to developing the creative side of the brain, children are strengthening many skill sets — decoding and reading skills, spatial and mathematical reasoning, fine motor skills, as well as critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Newtown’s music students are developing discipline, perseverance, self-confidence, teamwork, and communication skills, all highly sought after in today’s workforce. We are working to educate the next generation of musicians, audiences, and global citizens.”
According to NAMM, in Connecticut, in addition to 18 districts receiving the Best Communities for Music Education recognition, Fair Haven PreK-8 School in New Haven also received the Support Music Merit Award, which recognizes exemplary music education programs in individual schools.
Now in its 19th year, the NAMM awards program recognizes the outstanding efforts of teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders who have made music education part of the curriculum. Designations are given to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and consistent access to music education.
This year, the NAMM Foundation and the University of Kansas recognized school districts in 41 states, along with individual schools in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Those honored include both schools and districts that have never been recognized before, as well those that have received recognition multiple years in a row, like Newtown.
“The schools and districts we recognize this year — both new and repeat honorees — represent a diverse group of urban, rural, and suburban districts and demographics,” said NAMM Executive Director Mary Luehrsen in a release from her foundation. “Along with a strong commitment to music education, there are two common traits that each program shares: consistent funding that anchors music education as part of the core curriculum and music programs that are located in communities where music education is viewed as a jewel of the school system. Parents, administrators, and community members are proud of these local music programs and attend them regularly.”
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit organization. The foundation advances active participation in music-making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving, and public service programs.
For more information about the NAMM Foundation,visit nammfoundation.org.