Grosse Pointe Public School System music education program is among the ‘Best’

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published April 16, 2020

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GROSSE POINTES — The staff and students of the Grosse Pointe Public School System have reason to celebrate. 

The district’s music education program has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the NAMM Foundation for an outstanding commitment to music education. The district received the same national award in 2017.

The NAMM Foundation, based in Carlsbad, California, is the philanthropic arm of the National Association of Music Merchants trade association that supports music-making programs, research and activities.

“I am pleased with the recognition, but not surprised by it,” Brownell Middle School choir teacher Carolyn Gross said in an email. “I know that our teachers are passionate about bringing music to students’ lives, our students work hard to achieve, our administration is committed to helping us in any way possible, and our community is appreciative of the work the Music Department does. We have a wonderful partnership in the GPPSS.”

Gross, also the district’s vocal music department chair, said Grosse Pointe is one of 14 other districts in Michigan to receive the distinction. The award recognizes that the Grosse Pointe Public School System is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.

Now in its 21st 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. To qualify for the designation, department chairs answered questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities and support for music programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

All Grosse Pointe students participate in general music from prekindergarten through grade five. In grade six and up, all music classes become elective for students. Currently, there are 17 music teachers in the district.

“We want kids to learn to understand, appreciate and love music for the role it can play in their life,” Gross said. “Some of our students go on to become professional musicians, and many go on to have music play an important role in their life regardless of their profession.” 

According to Gross, studies have shown there are many benefits to studying music. They include concentrating on developing a lifelong skill, engaging both hemispheres of the brain at once, creating cultural and historical connections, decoding and analyzing information in both concrete and abstract ways, and using music as a means of expression.

“But in music ensembles students learn another set of skills that are applicable and valuable to any life path they choose; being interdependent to other students, working together simultaneously with a large group for a common goal, mental focus for peak performance, following direction of a leader, creating art with others, providing community experiences for audiences, the list could go on and on,” Gross said. 

“Music education is important for our community because it provides all students with the skills necessary to express themselves and lift others through music,” James Gross, district instrumental music department chair, said in a prepared statement. Carolyn and James Gross, who met in the district, are married and have three children.

The following music programs are available in the district during the school day: general music classes at all schools pre-K to grade five; choir at all schools grades six-12; and orchestra and band at all schools grades five-12. The district also offers Music Theory I, II, III, and Advanced Placement at Grosse Pointe South High School, and Music Technology I and II at South and at Grosse Pointe North High School. 

The extracurricular programs available outside the school day include chamber orchestras, a cappella choirs, marching band, jazz bands, full orchestras, small group choirs, all-school musicals, honors orchestras and bands, summer music festivals for bands, summer choir workshop, summer music theater workshop, and the “That’s Entertainment” workshop.