Hanover County has been named one of the best communities in the nation for music education for a second consecutive year.
March 26 the school system made it on the non-profit organization National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation’s list, where 376 school districts were named the “Best Communities for Music Education” in 2014.
The foundation surveys people each year in schools and districts about their school system’s music program. It covers topics such as funding, graduation requirements, staffing and the facilities available for music programs.
“For me, the most important thing about getting the award is that it raises the level of awareness for everyone,” said Paul Bakeman, a music teacher at Rural Point Elementary School.
At the elementary school level, Bakeman said it is especially significant because it is a reminder to parents that their students are receiving a music education.
This year roughly 2,000 schools and districts participated in the survey, which was administered during the last school year. The survey is advertised through email and on social media platforms to teachers and school administrators from school districts around the United States. According to the foundation’s website, all results are “analyzed statistically” and validated.
One music teacher attributed the designation to quality work from Hanover instructors at all school levels and the support instructors receive from students, teachers, administrators and the school board.
Bakeman said the lead teacher specialist for performing arts, Barry Flowe, makes sure all music educators receive professional development that is relevant to them and helps expand their teaching abilities.
“We get a tremendous amount of support and encouragement and we get a sense of importance that music is a vital part of the students’ education,” Bakeman said.
Bakeman’s music classroom has a plethora of instruments, including 25 guitars, which he said is a result of support from the school’s principal.
In addition to the support music teachers receive, Amy Birdsong, band director at Hanover High School, said a big contributor to the county receiving the national recognition is the collaboration and unity in the Hanover schools’ music community, especially among the high school bands in the county.
Birdsong said that many of the bands go on field trips or have pizza parties together rather than focusing on high school rivalry.
“It’s not that Atlee has a good program,” she said. “I think it’s that people see us collectively.”
Not only do music students intermingle at the high school level, high school instructors recruit many middle school students interested in music. In addition, students in high school will visit or play for elementary school students.
“It’s really cool to see everybody working together,” Bakeman said.
Bakeman starts out with most of the young musicians that Birdsong sometimes sees in her classes. This is because at the elementary level, all students in the county are required to have music class once a week. Bakeman said that in some areas of the country, students are not required to take any sort of music course.
“That’s something that sets Hanover apart,” Bakeman said.
And overall, his elementary students are usually excited to be in class and learn about music. Recently Bakeman had a fifth grade class perform a little musical. Bakeman said his students were so “jazzed” that even some of the boys in the class were up moving around and doing a “Greek grapevine dance” around the classroom.
Because of encouragement from the community and the enthusiasm from students, Bakeman said it’s reassuring and he does not feel like the music program in Hanover will fade out or lose funding.
“I never have that feeling,” he said.