Shaler Area recognized for commitment to music education
The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, or NAMM, has granted Shaler Area School District with its Best Communities for Music Education designation.
Shaler Area is one of 583 districts in the nation and 84 in the state to earn the award recognizing “outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education,” according to the foundation.
To qualify, representatives answered questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities and program support. The NAMM website states that, “designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.”
This award recognizes that Shaler Area is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. In 2015, the U.S. Congress passed the ESSA, which recognizes the importance of music and arts as part of a “well-rounded education” and protects classroom time for these subjects.
“We take great pride in our music education program at Shaler Area,” said Superintendent Sean Aiken. “Our students receive the highest quality of music education from our dedicated teachers, which becomes evident each year when they take the stage in band, orchestra, and choral concerts, school performances, and school musicals. This Best Communities for Music Education designation highlights Shaler Area's commitment to music education and puts a national spotlight on the amazing things our music department does every day.”
Scott Albert, kindergarten through sixth-grade music department chairman, said that Shaler Area is fortunate to have the resources to provide music education to young learners.
At the primary level, he said, students use African drums and hand-held percussion instruments. They “also explore music through movement, singing, play and dance.”
At the elementary level, students can join band, orchestra and chorus.
“Every instrumental and vocal student has the chance to perform for our school and the community.” Albert said. “Through performance it gives the students the chance to be a part of a musical family and share what they love.”
In eighth grade, students may audition for wind or vocal ensembles and jazz band. At the high school level, opportunities for music education abound, with four audition ensembles available as honors-level courses starting next year. Concert choir, symphonic band, orchestra, chamber orchestra, music theory, piano lab and percussion ensemble are a sampling of course offerings.
“The music education that our Shaler Area School District students receive extends far beyond the classroom,” said George Tepshich, music department chairman for the seventh- through 12th- grade level, noting that his students have performed all over the country, including at Walt Disney World, the National Memorial Day Parade, in Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City and Nashville.
As well as praising the district's vocalists and instrumentalists, he said that the elementary, middle school and high school produce “high-quality musicals.”
“We could not wait to see the looks on our students' faces when we told them about this honor,” Tepshich said. “It is our goal to instill a sense of pride in our students — we want them to be proud of the program that they are a part of, the product that they put on stage and the school that they represent. This award represents the hard work, dedication and rigor of our colleagues and students.”
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.