Newtown’s Music Education Program
Receives National Recognition
Named a Best Community for Music Education
for the 11th Time
NEWTOWN, CT – April 25, 2019 – Newtown has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.
Now in its 20th year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Newtown Public Schools answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music programs, Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.
This award recognizes that Newtown is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation guides implementation in the states and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) which was often criticized for an overemphasis on testing-while leaving behind subjects such as music. ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.
Music education is very important to our students from their perspective. Newtown High School senior and National Merit Scholarship finalist Michael Arena says, “In four years at the high school, I’ve had the exquisite privilege to participate in the orchestra, choir, and drama programs. The music classes I’ve taken at NHS have been an indispensable part of my education. Well beyond simply becoming a better musician, I’ve learned to make music with other human beings. This isn’t just simple teamwork, but a complex balance of careful listening, awareness of one’s own sound and the sound of the group, knowing when you’re right and when you’re wrong, and making corrections in real time. The product at the end can be indescribably beautiful. This is in many ways an excellent metaphor for capital-L Life in general.”
Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music. After two years of music education, research found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores that their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also to attend college as well. Everyday listening skills are stronger in musically-trained children that in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound; young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.
A 2015 study supported by The NAMM Foundation, “Striking A Chord,” also outlines the overwhelming desire by teachers and parents for music education opportunities for all children as part of the school curriculum.
Over 74% of all students in grades pre-K-12 participate in the Newtown Public School’s music program. Curricular offerings follow the national and state standards for music education and include General Music, Chorus, Band, Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Improvisation, Music Technology, Harmony and Composition, AP Music Theory and Makerspace Music. Many of those students also participate in extracurricular ensembles including Jazz Band, Marching Band, Honors Band, Bucket Band, annual musical productions, Chamber Orchestra, Singers, Concert Choir, male and female a capella groups, New Music Ensemble, Color Guard, Winter Guard, and Winter Percussion. Several students representing Reed Intermediate, Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School were selected to participate in this year’s regional, state and national music festivals. Newtown’s program is recognized for its excellence through the CT High School Theater Awards, USBands (2017 state and national champions), and various Jazz competitions. Many students take private lessons with professional musicians through the Visiting Artist Program. Younger students are befitting from HEMMA (High School/Elementary School Music Mentoring Association) in which high school students tutor younger children in beginning instrumental lessons and music theory skills. Music students frequently perform for school and community events and have traveled the world representing Newtown and making music. Our music teachers have been recognized in various capacities, including Newtown Teacher of the Year, serving as guest conductors in area music festivals, and writing curriculum for the College Board. Over the years, many Newtown graduates have gone on to be composers, music teachers, performers, conductors, and music therapists.
Michelle Hiscavich, Newtown’s Director of Visual and Performing Arts is “proud to have the hard work and efforts of the music teachers recognized and appreciates that the Newtown community acknowledges the value of the arts in every child’s education. The study of music enables our students to become well-rounded individuals. In addition to developing the creative side of the brain, children are strengthening many skill sets – decoding and reading skills, spatial and mathematical reasoning, fine motor skills, as well as critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Newtown’s music students are developing discipline, perseverance, self-confidence, teamwork and communication skills (all highly sought after in today’s workforce). We are working to educate the next generation of musicians, audiences and global citizens.”
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.