By Meg Ryan, Salisbury Daily Times - April 17, 2019
Two Lower Shore school systems are being recognized for their music education programs.
National Association of Music Merchants recently announced that Wicomico County Public Schools and Worcester County Public Schools were being named Best Communities for Music Education.
The Best Communities for Music Education, now in its 20th year, is a program honoring schools and school districts for the outstanding efforts of teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of the core curriculum, according to the organization.
In cooperation with researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, the program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction, according to the National Association of Music Merchants.
The foundation recognized 623 school districts in 41 states as Best Communities for Music Education out of the nation’s more than 13,000 school districts. Five school systems in Maryland were honored: Baltimore County Public Schools, Carroll County Public Schools, Howard County Public School System, Wicomico County Public Schools and Worcester County Public Schools.
Wicomico County has received this award about eight times. This is the first time for Worcester County.
“We have some school communities that have received this recognition year after year. A few have been there for 20 years,” said Mary Luehrsen of The NAMM Foundation in a news release. “But every year, new schools and districts are upping their game when it comes to music and the arts, often despite intense budget pressures.”
Tamara Mills, Worcester County Public Schools coordinator of instruction, said the school system was excited to be recognized. “We’re pretty excited about the exclusivity of that award,” she said.
Students see music education throughout their K-12 career either in required or selected courses. Mills emphasized the school system is focused on keeping up with Maryland's education standards and having qualified teachers in the classroom.
Worcester County also partners with organizations like the Mid Atlantic Symphony, the Worcester County Education Foundation and Symphony 21. These organizations offer a variety of opportunities including master classes, performances and more, she said.
Teachers also help students with secondary education pathways through relationships with Salisbury University and Towson University, Mills said. However, even if a student doesn’t pick an art based profession, the school system values art classes regardless of what the future holds and sees value in taking the classes regardless of future career.
“You need creative problem solving skills, you need creativity," Mills said.
Wicomico County is also focused on offering students arts education starting in elementary school, outside opportunities and college and career readiness, said Jeffrey Baer, supervisor of music.
“This award is as much school as it is community," he said.
And with Superintendent Donna Hanlin's Imagine 2022 plan, Baer said things can only improve with all day, universal prekindergarten offering an opportunity to start arts education even earlier.
Plus, with Hanlin looking at bringing a performing arts school to the system, Baer said they could expand from the current Visual Arts Performing program they have at Wicomico High School.
“I think that sends a great message to the community, to the state, to everybody,” he said.