For the seventh year in a row, LMSD was deemed one of the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation. This nonprofit applies the distinguished designation to school districts that have demonstrated strong support for music programs and have provided opportunities for students to become more engaged in music. Receiving this honor and the amenities that come along with it often helps “music educators, administrators, board members and advocates [gain] visibility and support” from their communities, according to the NAMM Foundation’s website. This year, LMSD was among only 527 districts nationwide that were recognized.
Being named as one of these districts is incredibly beneficial for LMSD. The BCME distinction recognizes the effort LMSD teachers and administrators put into our music programs, furthers the support these programs receive, and illustrates the district as an example of success that other areas can emulate. It can also be pointed to as a justification to continue to include music education in LMSD’s budget and underscores the overall importance of this art form for our students.
Districts aiming to qualify for the BCME award must complete a detailed survey that is then confirmed by school officials and sent to The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, an advisory organization that analyzes the data. The survey addresses the categories of Participation in Music, Scheduling, Qualified Faculty, Opportunity, Support from Administrators, Standards Based Learning and Curriculum, Community Partnerships, Technology, and Funding.
LMSD has been recognized for its exceptional programs that, beginning in elementary school and continuing through middle school, encourage students to participate in various different forms of music. All students take general music classes early on in elementary school, and in middle school, students are still required to take a music class, but are able to choose between concert band, orchestra, chorus, and general music. Aviva Schuh ’19, a member of LM’s Ace’s Angels, an a capella group, reflects that she credits LMSD’s mandatory music education curriculum for helping her “develop passions for art as well as academics,” and that the program “overall is quite valuable in helping [students] grow and branch out as they mature.”
Once students arrive at high school, there are a plethora of music classes including AP Music Theory, Music Major, Music and Modern Culture, Music Technology and Production, Electronic Piano Lab, and IB Music. Students who wish to perform can participate in Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Strings, Chamber Strings, Freshman Chorus, Concert Choir, and Chamber Choir. Several music groups at LM do not meet as classes, including the specialized instrumental ensembles of Jazz Band, Sax Quartet, and Wind Quintet, and the two a cappella groups Ace’s Angels and Flying Aces. As Lewis Kothmann ’20 shares, “I enjoyed so much the opportunity I had in joining Flying Aces. We meet every week and I’ve made great new friends and gotten closer with old ones…. It’s a wonderfully unique group that I’ve loved, and without the Music Program, it wouldn’t be possible.”
A particular claim to fame of the LMSD music department is that several of these groups at the middle and high school levels consistently win awards of their own for outstanding performances. LM’s Jazz Band, for example, received seventh place in the state championship the past April and throughout the competition season was given six rankings of “superior” (the highest ranking) and two of “outstanding.” The group was awarded Best Saxophone Section, Best Trombone Section, Best Trumpet Section, and Best Rhythm Section, each more than once. Mia Hodges ’18, who plays baritone saxophone, praises Jazz Band, saying, “I’m so glad to be a part of an ensemble like this. We’re challenged musically and intellectually and get opportunities to perform at levels most schools do not. Our director, Mr. Neu, is incredible and an expert in his field— he’s a wonderful mentor.” Many instrumentalists and singers from Harriton and LM also participate in District, Regional, and All-State ensembles if they qualify through an intense audition process.
Students report finding a momentous amount of encouragement from the network of people involved with music at their schools. Nehama Dormont ’19, a flautist, explains, “The music teachers at LM always find tons of free concerts, and [promote] opportunities to learn more about music. They are supportive of students who are passionate about music outside of the music rooms.”
At LM, many students cite music classes and events as very beneficial, positive learning environments that have led them to achieve their goals. “Each of my ten years of music classes in LMSD schools has brought fun and engaging experiences,” says Hannah Heller ’19, who is a member of Concert Choir. Dormont adds, “My schedule wouldn’t be complete without [one], and even on skip days, my friends and I will often find some excuse to go and pay a visit to the band room.”
The BCME award appears to be well-deserved by the LMSD music programs. But as music teacher Aaron Datsko shares, “At the end of the day, this is a nice recognition. What’s more important is that we have a school district and community that supports the fine arts.”