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NAMM harks sound, commitment resonating from district

The Chatham Central High School Guitar Ensemble performs at Peppercorn in downtown Siler City on March 26, 2019.

SILER CITY — Students studying culinary arts at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek were getting ready to take their cooking showcase on the road. The destination was Peppercorn in downtown Siler City. It’s a funky spot with charm and character, and Chatham Central teacher Everett Goldston figured that anything his students prepared would taste even better with a side of live music.

So Goldston reached out to Amanda Shanks, who teaches concert band at Chatham Central. She didn’t flinch at his pitch, knowing Chatham Central’s guitar ensemble would be game for the gig.

“Because I know my students, and they are really talented musicians,” Shanks explained. “They’re very musical, and I knew they would take advantage of the opportunity.”

That speaks to what’s going on throughout Chatham County Schools (CCS), which is the recipient of a Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation.

The nonprofit NAMM Foundation, supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants, advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public-service programs.

The Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to school districts demonstrating outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access Virginia Cross Elementary School music teacher Mary Clayton Jolicouer demonstrates ukulele techniques April 2, 2019.  and education to all students. CCS measured up in terms of funding, graduation requirements, participation in music classes, instructional 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.

“Arts programming is a critical component of a well-balanced instructional program for our students,” CCS Superintendent Dr. Derrick D. Jordan said. “Our Board of Education, along with our students, parents and community partners, including our local Board of Commissioners, agree.”

That collaboration has created “an environment that values the importance of music education for all students and empowers the local school administration and teachers to offer the best programs possible for our students,” said Sharon Allen, the district’s lead arts teacher.

NAMM this year recognized just three North Carolina school districts: CCS, Guilford County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

Research has demonstrated that music education Virginia Cross Elementary School students are learning to play the ukulele in Mary Clayton Jolicouer's class April 1, 2109.  boosts cognitive and social skills in children, according to The NAMM Foundation.

During an outdoor celebration at Siler City Elementary School in late March, Jordan-Matthews High School band director JC Harper was leading his students Jordan-Matthews High School band director JC Harper leads his students at Siler City Elementary School on March 27, 2019. through several pieces of music. The weather was chilly, but Harper was working up a sweat with arm movements and hand gestures that seemingly pulled all the right notes out of his students’ instruments. There’s a reason he’s the Jordan-Matthews Teacher of the Year.

As much as Harper’s students were into it at Siler City Elementary, Shanks’ students were feeling it at Peppercorn.

“She really helped us learn the music and made sure we were prepared to play. She even asked if we were comfortable playing,” Chatham Central student Johnathan Lawson said. “I would do it again.”

“Ms. Shanks has pushed me with a gentle hand to do more with music and gradually take steps outside of my comfort zone,” Chatham Central student Jordan Pickett said. “At the cafe, I sang ‘When Mama Prayed’ by Randy Travis. And, yes, I was nervous, but if it wasn’t for her encouragement, I wouldn’t have been there with my friends smiling through the songs.

“I had an amazing experience singing and playing guitar at the cafe. I would no doubt do it again.”

“Ms. Shanks was a big help for me because she took extra time during her empower hour to help me work on my part in the piece we performed called ‘Minuet in G,’ which was not easy,” Chatham Central student Brittany Brooks said. “She helped me, Jordan and Johnathan a lot with timing and staying together by conducting the hardest piece and always encouraging us to do our best and helping us sound our best.”

The Jordan Matthews High School Jazz Band performs at Siler City Elementary School on March 27, 2019.

Published April 7, 2019