NAMM Best Communities for Music Education
ALBION, NY— April 12, 2021 — Albion Central School District has been honored for the 14th year in a row with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.
The designation celebrates districts that work hard to provide music access and education to all students. In order to qualify for the designation, the district completed a detailed survey, answered questions regarding music class participation, facilities, support for the music programs, and, topically, how its adapted instruction and programming to continue effectively through the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are honored to once again be recognized with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from NAMM," Superintendent Mickey Edwards said. "While this last year has provided us with some unexpected challenges, this designation is a testament that our program, students, and staff have not only persevered but overcome these obstacles, carrying on the vibrant tradition of music in our district as well as our community."
High School Principal Jennifer Ashbery celebrated the NAMM recognition stating, “This is a testament to the efforts of our students and entire music staff here at Albion Central Schools. We have a lot to be proud of!”
“The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting precautions and regulations have certainly changed the way we teach, but haven’t lessened the vitality of our music education program here in Albion,” High School Band Director Mike Thaine explained. “We are blessed with a committed administration, supportive and understanding community, and dedicated music teachers who never considered ‘phoning it in’ this year, but – on the contrary – have worked tirelessly to reimagine how music education can be effective during a time of hybrid schedules, on-line learning, compulsory mask-wearing, instrument covers, 12-foot ensemble spacing, and no in-person public concerts.”
While following COVID-19 safety regulations has posed some unique challenges for our ensembles, they have also had some unexpectedly positive results.
For example, with the 12-foot spacing regulation, ensemble teachers have noticed that, without other musicians to “hide behind,” students have become more independent musicians and confidence has improved. It’s also given teachers an opportunity to focus less on ensemble performance, and more heavily on individual concepts such as ear-training, music analysis, solfege, melodic & rhythmic dictation, critical listening, exposure to professional models, and solo performance skills.
“We’ve seen wonderful growth in our students’ general music literacy through these activities,” Thaine said. “Our classroom music teachers report that the smaller class sizes have resulted in more individual attention for each student. Elementary students are actually getting more time with Orff and Kolday activities, gaining an opportunity to increase their rhythmic aptitude.”
Some extracurricular ensembles such as marching band, chamber choir, and jazz ensemble have been practicing regularly via Zoom. “Now, more than ever, our students need music,” Thaine emphasized. “Our philosophy during the pandemic is to absolutely keep music prominent for them.”
Additionally, as in-person concerts have not been permitted this year due to the pandemic, the department dedicated its time to reimagining these events, carrying on the traditions for the students, staff, and greater Albion community.
“At no time did we consider simply canceling them,” Thaine emphasized.
For example, in November, rather than the usual Sr. High Band and Choir Veterans Day Concert, the music department presented a pre-recorded virtual Veterans Day program, which featured small groups of students performing patriotic musical selections and student-driven interviews with several veterans that have close ties to the Albion music students. In this way, they were able to carry on the tradition of honoring some of our local heroes.
In December, in place of a live holiday concert, each hybrid section of the high school choir recorded a wonderful 15-minute program explaining and demonstrating what activities and techniques they’ve been working on in class before incorporating the skills in their performance of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” That program was emailed to all of the choir students, as well as parents /guardians. On the other hand, high school band students were separated into solos, duets, trios, and quartets and then chose a Christmas carol or short holiday tune to prepare. Each group was video recorded performing their song and students dressed up in holiday garb and decorated their instruments. These informal, yet festive, music videos were posted on the band’s Facebook page and emailed home to band families. The Middle School bands and choruses recorded an abbreviated holiday musical presentation, which was shared with parents and the public via the school’s YouTube channel.
Every March the district hosts its annual All-District Concert, which, depending on the year, features all of the district’s instrumental or vocal ensembles, elementary through senior high, together in one event. It would have been easy to skip the event this year, given the circumstances, but instead, teachers organized a virtual program, including students from both hybrid sections of the Fifth Grade Band, all four hybrid sections of the Middle School bands, several soloists from the HS Band, and even a few remote students. The program was broadcast via YouTube and the district’s website.
Lastly, the musical theater productions were also all done virtually this year. The productions were professionally recorded and casts, crews, and orchestras wore masks and were largely kept socially distanced.
About The NAMM Foundation: The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,400 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music-making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving, and public service programs. For more information about the NAMM Foundation, please visit www.nammfoundation.org.