by Dave Warner

Little Falls has won the 2019 Best Community for Music Education award for the fourth time. The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation recognized 623 school districts in 41 states.

Now in its 20th year, the program honors schools and school districts for outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders and their support for music education as part of the core curriculum.

“It’s worth noting that we have some school communities that have received this recognition year-after-year,” said Mary Luehrsen of The NAMM Foundation. “But, every year, new schools and districts are upping their game when it comes to music and the arts, often despite budget and curriculum pressures.”

Emily Rozonkiewiecz, music teacher at Benton Hall Academy said “We have our K-5 general music classes, but we have extra groups – a second and third-grade chorus and a fourth and fifth-grade chorus. Then we have the handbell choir.”

BHA also has a beginner band and a cadet band as well. “When I started here almost 20 years ago, all those groups existed then except for the second and third-grade chorus. When I first did the chorus, we had between 40 and 50 kids. Now we have over 80,” stated Rozonkiewiecz.

“Our music teachers are all very close and work really well together and help each other out. Any concert or event that we have, you’ll find at least three if not all four of us in attendance. Not just watching but involved in it,” she said.

Rozonkiewiecz thinks that getting the award four times is just amazing. “I thank the community, because it is a community award, not just the school. We’re lucky to have a lot of opportunities for children to perform in the musical theater, the Rotary play, Christmas in Little Falls and many other things.”

Since the passage by Congress in 2015 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many school districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs.

Amy Osborne, another music teacher at Benton Hall Academy stated “Kids in Little Falls are really special. A lot of places don’t have a handbell choir, but these kids want to be here. They’re giving up their time and I just think it’s awesome.”

“They excede my expectations. I’ll pick really difficulty selections and they’ll just do it. I love it when they’re involved with all of the multiple groups that we have. Now we have a middle school program, which then feeds into the high school program and they just want to be there,” said Osborne.

“Even with compounding evidence of the benefits and importance of music education, many music education programs are not adequately funded and struggling for adequate resources for their proper place in the curriculum,” confirmed Luehrsen.

“The Best Community districts and SupportMusic schools show what can be done when teachers, school and community leaders, and parents all agree that music is essential and not optional as a learning force that must be available to all students. We dream of the day when all districts aspire to earn this distinction.”

Stacie Luczynski-Perch, the band teacher at the high school said “This award means a lot, obviously. I feel like between the four of us teachers, we’ve really helped the kids to appreciate the program and help it to grow. We’re always on the same page with each other as far as the curriculum and our expectations.”

“If the kids want more, we’re always available for extra encouragement or challenges. To see how the public responds when we’re out doing performances – appreciating them and giving us compliments, is great. They can see the love that we have for our students,” stated Luczynski-Perch.