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Encore! District’s educators still in tune, students hitting right notes


PITTSBORO — The hits just keep coming for Chatham County Schools (CCS). 

Musically speaking.

For the second straight year, the school district earned a Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) designation from The NAMM Foundation. 

“The award celebrates districts and schools that are working hard to ensure that music education is a part of a well-rounded education available to all students,” said Mary Luehrsen, The NAMM Foundation’s executive director. 

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

“As a former high school band member myself and a former parent to a band student, I can speak to the value that these programs have on our students,” said Dr. Amanda Hartness, Dr. Amanda Hartness the assistant superintendent of academic services and instructional support for CCS. “Our music programs often give our students a safe place and a sense of belonging that they might not otherwise find in school. Our music teachers know the students’ strengths and weaknesses, and they work to develop students to their highest potential.”

Becca Clemens is the band director at Margaret B. Pollard Middle School. With schools closed to limit the spread of COVID-19, she’s not able to physically position the fingers of her students on their instruments or otherwise teach music as she normally would.

So she innovated. 

“I know my students enjoy kitschy, poorly edited movies, so utilizing every available feature on iMovie worked to my advantage there,” Clemens said about a teaching video she produced. “The video itself is way too long to hold the attention of a middle schooler. Every time I felt myself getting bored, I would throw in a meme or something sparkly. Incorporating the characters Guido, Luigi and Batman were similar pulls toward holding their attention, but also that "Sesame Street"-type format sets up an expectation that characters will show up in future videos — they will — which hopefully will attract more kids. Those figurines were laying around my house so I built fun segments around them. This also, hopefully, makes kids subscribe to the YouTube channel so they see the better, and much shorter, videos I will post in the future.” 

In 2019, CCS was one of three school districts in North Carolina — joining Guilford County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools — to achieve BCME status. This time around, it’s CCS and Guilford County Schools alone. Criteria included measuring up in terms of funding, graduation requirements, participation in music classes, instructional time, facilities and support for music programs.

"Receiving the Best Communities for Music Education designation for the second year is a result of the collaboration of many stakeholders in Chatham County supporting the importance of music education for all K-12 students,” CCS lead arts teacher Sharon Allen said. Northwood brass “The application process required compiling data on K-12 student participation in music programs, financial support for music programs from the Chatham County Board of Education, Chatham County commissioners, district administration, local school administration and support from community organizations such as school PTAs, Chatham Arts Council, JMArts and the Northwood High School Arts Education Foundation. The data reveals how this team works together to provide the materials and opportunities for students to receive the best possible music instruction along with valuable music experiences beyond the classroom. Our students are the ultimate beneficiaries of this collaboration as they experience the transforming power of music in their lives."

Music education enhances students cognitively and develops their social skills, according to the foundation.  

“Research shows that students who are involved in music, specifically, tend to have higher test scores, and we believe that a robust arts program supports the development of the whole child,” Hartness said. “We are extremely fortunate to have a thriving arts program that many districts just don't have. We fund our arts program at a higher level than many districts, and our students are extremely competitive at the local, state and national levels. Our marching bands, choral groups, jazz bands, etc., are always on the go competing and performing at various events.” 

Pandas at Christmas

Published April 21, 2020