Newtown Named A ‘Best Community For Music Education’

Published: May 21, 2022 07:00 AM

Newtown was recently 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.

Now in its 23rd year, 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, as announced by the school district.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Newtown answered detailed 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.

“We could not be prouder of our Newtown Music Department, recently honored with the Best Community for Music Education Award by the NAMM Foundation,” Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue said in the release. “The passion, hard work, and commitment shared by musicians and staff have made a positive impact on the Newtown community. On behalf of our district, congratulations to all of our staff, students, leaders, and families who have contributed to our outstanding music program.”

Newtown Board of Education Chair Deborra Zukowksi said, “Schools that embrace music are schools where all students flourish. And, Newtown’s music programs and extracurriculars are truly exceptional across all of our schools. Congratulations to our Newtown staff and students yet again.”

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many school districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs, according to the release. During the pandemic, music and arts programs were a vital component to keeping students engaged in school.

ESSA provides designated funding for well-rounded educational opportunities through Title IV Part A Student Academic Success and Achievement grants. NAMM Foundation research has revealed that these grants are being widely used by school districts to address instructional gaps in access to music and arts education.

Also according to the release, over 73% of all students in pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade participate in the Newtown Public School’s music program, many in multiple ensembles. Curricular offerings follow the national and state standards for music education and include General Music, Chorus, Band, Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Improvisation, Music Technology, Unified Music, Harmony and Composition, Advanced Placement Music Theory, and Humanities-Music.

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, Color Guard, Winter Guard, and Winter Percussion.

Younger students are benefitting from the High School/Elementary School Music Mentoring Association (HEMMA), in which high school 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.

Among other music highlights, the NHS Marching Band was selected to represent the state of Connecticut in this year’s National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC, on the recommendation of Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. The NHS choirs will be traveling to Disney for a music festival and the Reed Intermediate School Bands and NHS Orchestra will be participating in an upcoming adjudication festival.

Newtown’s Director of Visual and Performing Arts Michelle Hiscavich said 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 music rooms are places where students can create, perform, express themselves, learn about other cultures, and make lifetime friendships and memories. Students are developing discipline, perseverance, resiliency, self-confidence, teamwork, and communication skills … all highly sought-after in today’s workforce. And, as we say before every concert, ‘Have fun and make beautiful music!”’

Anita Shire

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