West Chester Area School District Receives Top Music Education Honor


WEST CHESTER, PA — The West Chester Area School District has received The NAMM Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education honor for its unwavering commitment to providing high-quality music education. The honor, now in its 24th year, is bestowed upon districts that showcase exceptional achievements in granting music access and education to every student.

Earning the Best Communities honor entailed the WCASD responding to in-depth inquiries about music program funding, class participation, graduation requirements, music instruction, facilities, and support for community music-making programs. Detailed responses were then fact-checked by school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

“Participation in the arts is greatly encouraged by our educators, administrators, and community. We see evidence of this through our student participation in music ensembles, with thousands of students participating in band, chorus, and orchestra each year,” said Kristen Barnello, Assistant to the Director of Secondary Education. “Our music educators are phenomenal musicians in their own right, and through their musicianship foster a lifelong love of music in each of our students.”

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, providing a well-rounded education has been a major focus for educators across the United States. As a result, many school districts have decided to recommit to music and arts education programs, recognizing their value in delivering a comprehensive education.

In the wake of the pandemic, the importance of music and arts programs in keeping students engaged in their academic pursuits cannot be overstated. With the numerous restrictions and challenges brought forth by the pandemic, it is crucial to have programs that help students maneuver through the troubled waters.

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By offering a creative outlet, these programs have become more than just extracurriculars, they have become essential pillars of support. Students can use their artistic talents to make wholesome use of their time while exploring new forms of self-expression. Moreover, as students continue to battle feelings of isolation and disconnection from their classmates and the world, music and arts programs provide a sense of community and belonging.

To facilitate the implementation of these programs and ensure access for all students, ESSA provides designated funding through Title IV Part A Student Academic Success and Achievement grants. School districts across the nation have been putting these funds to good use by filling instructional gaps and providing access to music and arts learning opportunities.

Recent research conducted by the NAMM Foundation has revealed that the grants are being widely utilized in school districts to address these gaps and help deliver a comprehensive and well-rounded education to students.

“The greatest joy of being a music teacher is watching your students perform something that they have worked very hard to achieve, ” said Jonathan Kreamer, District Music Department Lead and Director of Choirs and Musicals at Henderson High School.

Research into music education shows a plethora of benefits for children who love music. Studies reveal that even after just two years of music education, participants show more substantial improvements in the way their brains process speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers. Not only that, but children who are musically engaged are more likely to excel academically- it increases their chances of completing high school and advancing to college.

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Music education promotes not only academic growth but also emotional development. It has been found that everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. These listening skills are an essential aspect of our ability to perceive speech in noisy backgrounds, pay attention, and develop a memory that is grounded in auditory input. Studying music also has positive implications later in life – individuals who took music lessons as children exhibit stronger neural processing of sound than their peers. This elevated neural processing manifests even in young and older adults who have not played an instrument in up to 50 years.

Apart from the cognitive benefits, music education also has tremendous social benefits. It can help in developing conflict resolution skills, improve teamwork abilities and teach kids how to take and respond to constructive feedback. It is undoubtedly true that engaging in music education provides long-term pay-offs, which transcend beyond mere enjoyment of the craft.

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