The Lansing Central School District’s music program recently received the Best Communities of Music Education award from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, which “honors schools and districts across the United States for their commitment to and support of music education,” according to a press release.
Lansing was one of 628 school districts across the country to receive the award from the NAMM Foundation, which is a supporting organization of NAMM that, according to its website, “advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs.” NAMM itself, according to its website, is a non-profit association established in 1901 with a mission of “strengthen[ing] the music products industry and promot[ing] the pleasures and benefits of making music.”
Lyn Weil is a music teacher at the middle and high schools and leads the orchestras of both schools. She said the music program was honored to receive the award from the NAMM Foundation.
“The parents are very invested in their child’s musical education,” Weil said. “Students want to be a part of the music program. As teachers, we try to offer a very meaningful musical education and musical experience for our students and our families and our communities that will hopefully encourage a life-long relationship with music.”
She said the program’s success can be attributed to several groups of individuals.
“There’s [not] one person that really deserves the credit for the award,” she said. “There’s a lot of different people. First would be the community for its support. Our administration for valuing music as an essential part of the education for the students here, and the commitment they have to hire highly qualified music educators, who are specialists in their area … music teachers for their hard work and their dedication; their desire to improve their craft.
“The parents for supporting their children’s growth, but supporting the program as a whole, too. We have a business program that helps us, that helps provide some financial aid and human bodies. When we need help with something, they’re there to help us. And most of all, it’s the students for their hard work, their dedication and their musicality.”
Weil specializes in string instrumental performance and has been teaching music at the district for 22 years. She said the music program has grown quite a bit throughout her time at the district.
“We’ve really seen [it grow] as the years go on and you start building a program,” she said. “Every year you try to improve it in little ways. Most recently, I can tell you that we’ve done a lot of work with aligning the [kindergarten through 12th grade] musical curriculum. Making sure that what started at the kindergarten level works all the way up through high school is really at mind and that we’re supporting one another in what we do, and we’re supporting the students to allow them to achieve higher benchmarks and also to reach potential and recognize their own potential.”
She also said the program worked on listening to the students’ feedback more about what they need in order to succeed, organized joint concerts with members of the elementary, middle and high school bands, host guest musical practitioners and collaborated with other departments in one of the schools. For instance, she said if the english department was studying mythology, a music group may try to play a song with elements of mythology.
In addition to honoring a district’s music education, the Best Communities of Music Education award also recognizes how accessible a district’s music education program is to students. Weil said the district’s music program has always been accessible to the student body and that it’s something the district continually works to improve no matter what.
“We provide a safe place [where] students are welcomed and given opportunities to achieve and express themselves and to perform,” she said. “We really value the diversity of the student body. In our repertoire, we try to make students make meaningful contacts with different types of music.”
She also said the program asks any new student from a different school that did not perform in a musical group whether or not he or she would like to participate in one of the district’s musical groups.The program’s booster also helps any student with purchasing an instrument if he or she cannot afford it.
Weil said she is proud of how the district’s music program can be used as an outlet for social and emotional learning.
“We’re seeing that it’s a program about inclusion and supporting one another,” she said. “We’ve seen students really take advantage of that. Our music lends itself so much to that type of learning, because you’re in an ensemble and you’re supporting one another and you’re respecting one another and you’re helping one another. It’s working together [towards] a common goal: to create a living, breathing thing called music.”