Best Communities for Music Education Designation a Lifeline for Music Programs during the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Claire Kreger-Boaz, sponsored by The NAMM Foundation
Adapted from, “Best Communities for Music Education Designation an Important Reminder that #Musicislife,” NAMMFoundation.org
What happened during the COVID-19 pandemic was nothing short of miraculous: music teachers across the United States rallied and adapted their curriculum to keep music education as part of the virtual school day—and then embraced recommended aerosol mitigation strategies, along with their students who wore masks on their faces and bell covers on their horns so that music education could safely happen in-person once schools opened back up. There was so much innovation happening between March 2020 and August 2021 by music products companies and teachers that The NAMM Foundation recognized 686 school districts with a Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) designation and 80 SupportMusic Merit Awards (SMMA) to individual schools in 2021.
After his district received its 22nd BCME designation Dr. Matthew Koperniak, music coordinator for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, explained how he kept his music programs going: “During the early months of the pandemic, all of our classes were online. We utilized several programs to engage students during this time, including SmartMusic, UpbeatMusicApp, ToneSavvy, Sightreading Factory, and Quaver. As we shifted towards a hybrid model for the 2020-2021 school year, we used singers’ masks, bell covers, and social distancing to begin singing and playing instruments again . . . Many of our middle school programs have reported strong recruiting classes of beginners. Students want to join and participate in meaningful activities. They want to make music!”
“Students want to join and participate in meaningful activities. They want to make music!”
Two-time BCME designee Lansing School District #158’s Director of Bands Matthew Becker of Lansing, Illinois, said of his students’ capacity for resilience: “Through the experience of adversity and challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, and adapting to the changes continuing to be made to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and community, I have learned that children are extremely resilient. Children of all ages and grade levels have the capacity to build and harness tools and routines that will help them cope with challenges and become strong members of society through the adversity they have experienced. It has been amazing to watch students adapt to new and innovative teaching methods including virtual, hybrid, and in-person with mitigations put in place.”
Both Koperniak and Becker attribute much of the community, administrative, and financial support of their music programs to receiving the BCME designation. Becker said of receiving the BCME award, “Receiving the BCME award for two years in a row has greatly benefited our music programs in Lansing District #158. We have been recognized locally by the town of Lansing in publications such as The Lansing Journal, as well as our local television station, the Lansing News Network (LNN). Our administration and teachers have shared this award in celebration with all staff and students within the community, and this has led to continued innovation in collaborative efforts across the district to provide the best education in all facets that meet the unique individual needs of every student.”
Koperniak maintains that receiving the BCME award every year for the past 22 years is critical to his music program’s success in Fulton County Schools. He said, “This designation is crucial to ongoing financial support, including band and orchestra instrument growth and replacement, instrument repair funding, band uniform replacement cycles, and a three-million-dollar music literature purchase cycle over six years. This designation supports our efforts as we work to expand programs, such as Music Technology, which we currently have been piloting in several of our high schools.”
Becker and Koperniak represent just two districts out of the 686 BCME award winners, but their dedication to receiving community support, along with their ability to adapt, is representative of the schools and districts recognized by The NAMM Foundation.
Learn more about the Best Communities for Music Education award program and how your school or district can apply.
About the author:
Claire Kreger-Boaz is Senior Project Manager, NAMM.
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November 23, 2021. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)