NAMM award is sweet music to UCS

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 3, 2015

 Band Director Scott Condne conducts the student musicians at Davis Junior High School on April 2. The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation recently recognized Utica Community Schools as one of the nation’s best communities for music education.

Band Director Scott Condne conducts the student musicians at Davis Junior High School on April 2. The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation recently recognized Utica Community Schools as one of the nation’s best communities for music education.

Photos by Donna Agusti

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Teachers and administrators from Utica Community Schools are singing a happy tune about an award from a pro-music education nonprofit group.

The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation recently named Utica Community Schools one of the best places in the country to learn music.

The California-based nonprofit group honored 388 U.S. school districts as Best Communities for Music Education this year. It also honored UCS last year.

Susan Rosso, UCS systemwide co-chair for K-12 performing arts, said the school district upholds classroom instruction standards in performing, creating and analyzing music. The standards are held in place by the state of Michigan, and they are aligned with national standards.

Although Rosso said the NAMM Foundation’s criteria for earning the distinction remains the same, the school district sets its standards high and works hard to be a top performer.

“Every year, you need to be trying to improve,” she said.

In order to be one of the Best Communities for Music Education, UCS had to prove how it made its music classes widely accessible and effective for students. The NAMM Foundation and a research institute affiliated with the University of Kansas examined the data, according to NAMM.

Rosso said the district’s elementary schools require students in kindergarten through sixth grade to participate in a music class once per week. She said music is an elective at the junior high and high school levels, and there are multiple vocal and instrumental classes that students may take. The district also invites students to participate in extracurricular bands and other programs.

“We do have award-winning bands and choirs in Utica Community Schools,” she said. “(They) participate in festivals and bring back awards.”

Rosso said music education is important for all students.

“The arts give students an opportunity to apply the things that they learn in their core classes,” she said. “The arts give students an opportunity to work together as an ensemble to create a product. They learn teamwork skills, leadership skills, organizational skills, creative skills — and those are all skills that are necessary in today’s society.”

In a statement, UCS Superintendent Christine Johns affirmed that music education is integral to the district’s educational experiences.

“This national designation once again demonstrates the quality of our students, the outstanding support of our community, and the commitment and dedication of our vocal and instrumental music teachers,” Johns said.

Learn more about the NAMM Foundation by visiting www.nammfoundation.org. Contact Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.

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