For a sixth year in a row, Newark Central School District was named one of 583 Best Communities for Music Education in the U.S. by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation.
The program recognizes and celebrates schools and districts for their support and commitment to music education.
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit organization with the mission to advance active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs from the international music products industry.
Now in its 19th year, the BCME program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who work together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum.
“We are so fortunate here in the Newark Central School District to be able to provide such an amazing musical education to our students,” said Cindy Briggs, K-12 music department leader. “From pre-K all the way through the secondary grades, it is an important creative learning outlet for our students. We are very fortunate in the Newark community to be able to provide the music education program that we have. That would not be possible without the support of our district administration, board of education, community and colleagues who recognize the value of the arts in education and the difference music it makes students’ lives. The entire NCSD Music Department is very grateful for this recognition.”
NCSD received this designation after its music department completed a questionnaire about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and other factors in the community that affect access to music education for all students.
The Music Research Institute at University of Kansas verifies responses with district officials, and advisory organizations review the data.
Briggs credited Perkins School music teacher Maria Walton in preparing the application.
“Maria did all the leg work again this year, and it is very time consuming,’’ she said.
“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 Mary Luehrsen, of the NAMM 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.”
Research studies continue to demonstrate the physical, cognitive and social benefits of music making. Students who are involved in a school-based music program are more likely to graduate high school and attend college, and only a few years of musical training early in life improves how the brain processes sound. Social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills and learning how to give and receive constructive criticism.
“Music and the arts are a critical component of the core curriculum, and strong community support and involvement in the arts helps build an even stronger foundation for student success in those areas of study and beyond,” said Christopher Johnson, KU researcher and professor. “Along with contributing to improved graduation rates and academic success, students in quality music programs are consistently more proficient in other subjects and develop many ancillary lifelong skills. We have all noticed how the most involved music students are also exceptional critical thinkers and good listeners, able to persist through all kinds of adversities. The benefits of a strong music program extend far beyond the program itself, though the primary benefit will always be the unparalleled joys that good music brings to peoples’ lives.”
The designation went to 11 other school districts in the region: Brighton, East Irondequoit, Honeoye, Honeoye Falls-Lima, Palmyra-Macedon, Penfield, Pittsford, Rush-Henrietta, Wayne, Webster and West Irondequoit.
Briggs commended the entire music department staff for its work.
Mary Lou Bonnell, general music teacher at Lincoln School, provides music therapy for grades K-12.
Briggs directs Beginning Band and Continuing Band, and gives instrumental lessons for grades 4-5.
Libby Brozik, vocal music teacher at Kelley School, directs fourth- and fifth-grade chorus, and teaches general music to grades 3-5.
Mike Ciranni, TV production teacher at Newark High School, teaches “Music in Our Lives,” audio production and general music at Newark Middle School.
Kate Flock, vocal music teacher at NHS, directs Mixed Chorus, Concert Choir and Vocal Jazz; provides vocal lessons for grades 9-12; and serves as musical director for NHS musicals.
Brooke Hartpence, NMS vocal music teacher, directs sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade chorus. She teaches general music for grades 6-8.
Robert Humphrey directs Concert Band, Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. He directs the pit band for NHS musicals, and provides instrumental lessons for grades 9-12.
Rebekah Valerio is an instrumental music teacher at NMS. She directs sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade band and jazz band, and gives instrumental lessons for grades 6-8.
Walton is the general music teacher at Perkins School.
In addition to music instruction provided daily by music staff and many performances throughout the school year, Briggs highlighted some of the music-related activities the music department offers. These include homecoming; Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies; holiday performances at Eastview Mall in Victor; performances for adjudication at NYSSMA majors; participation in junior and senior high ensembles at Hochstein School of Music in Rochester; the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra holiday performance in December; the ELENBE awards for the performing arts in May; community parades; Kelley School’s Veterans Day celebration in November and RPO field trips to Eastman Theatre in Rochester; Rotary club performances; NHS and NMS musicals in the spring; the second-grade holiday performance, field day and “Farewell Fridays” at Lincoln School; “The Young Americans’’ outreach tour and group workshops at NCSD every three years; the winter jazz guest artist performance; Cabaret Night; chamber of commerce performances; RPO Holiday Pops Festival Chorus; Rochester International Jazz Festival; Newarkfest/Family Festival performances; representation in all-county, area all-state, at the state level in conference all-state and at the regional level in all-Eastern; participation in local and state solo festivals; and evaluation of ensembles at the state level.
“Newark Central School District’s receiving NAMM’s Best Communities for Music Education designation for the sixth year in a row is a very well-deserved honor for everyone in our music department,” said Matt Cook, superintendent. “It is also commendable, because our talented staff engages hundreds of students, parents and other community members every year who contribute in so many different ways to make it a great success.”