Western Branch Music Education Program Wins National Honor | News, Sports, Jobs


BELOIT – West Branch Local School District was honored with the NAMM Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education designation for its outstanding commitment to music education. Now in its 22nd year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is given to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, West Branch answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class attendance, instruction time, facilities, program support, music and community music creation programs. The answers were verified with school officials and reviewed by the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

The district’s strong music education program includes general elementary music, college choir, college music group, rock ‘n roll history class, high school marching band, including the Majorette Team and Colorguard Team, High School Concert Orchestra, High School Jazz Band, High School Concert Choir and High School Women’s Choir. There are also a number of extracurricular musical activities at all schools, including the Middle School Show Choir, Middle School Jazz Band, High School Show Choir, and three to four musical theater productions per year.

“It’s unheard of for a school the size of West Branch to do all the musical productions and concerts that we do.” said Krista Clay, a middle and high school vocal music teacher for the district. “We have extracurricular groups in college – the jazz band and the performing choir. There are very few middle schools that are able to do this, especially in a small rural school district. “

The district continued to provide these opportunities to students, even throughout the challenges of performing musical rehearsals and productions with Covid protocols in place – including separating school-level performances and moving them into the college gymnasium to leave more space. The high school musical theater productions were rehearsed with masks and two groups were chosen for the Cinderella District production, which provided the opportunity for additional performances to allow for greater participation despite protocols.

“Not only do we have professional musicals, we do three to four, whereas most schools are lucky enough to do one a year.” Clay said. “Sir. Zamarelli has produced professional-caliber musicals and some clients have even said, ‘Wow! Your Phantom of the Opera was better than the one I’ve seen in Ontario!’ “

Since the 2015 passage by Congress of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the emphasis on well-balanced education, many school districts have re-engaged in music and arts education programs and have found that in this time of a national pandemic, provides a valuable way to keep students engaged in school. ESSA provides designated funding for well-balanced educational opportunities through Title IV Part A Student Academic Achievement Grants. Research from the NAMM Foundation has found that these grants are widely used by students. school districts to fill educational gaps in access to music and arts education.

“We have had many students who have made careers in the fine arts, including many music teachers,” said Clay, who herself is a West Branch graduate. “We have had students who received vocal and instrumental scholarships who were not music majors either. Many went on to participate in college-level ensembles or productions and received merit scholarships.

Music education research continues to demonstrate the benefits of educational / cognitive and social skills for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in the way the brain processes speaking and reading notes that their less involved peers and students involved in music are not only more likely to graduate from high school but also go to college . Daily listening skills are stronger in children trained in music than in those who do not. Significantly, listening skills are closely related to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention and remember sounds. Later in life, people who took music lessons as a child exhibit more powerful neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for 50 years at the time. maximum exhibit improved neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, the social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.

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