Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth schools among best for music education

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BRUNSWICK — Math, English and science may be the usual subjects that define educational success, but schools in Brunswick and Cape Elizabeth are nationally ranked for another reason: music.

The Brunswick and Cape Elizabeth school departments are the only districts in the state this year to be named to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education.

According to the organization’s website, the award program recognizes “outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education.”

Designations for the list, it states, are made to districts and schools that demonstrate “exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.”

Along with Cape Elizabeth and Brunswick, 583 other school districts nationwide were named to the list. This is the third year Cape Elizabeth was recognized by the organization.

It’s Brunswick’s first year, and Heidi Anderson, director of instrumental music at Brunswick Junior High School, said her district is “thrilled” to be one of the communities recognized.

“We are incredibly proud of the music education and opportunities we provide our students, but really, this award recognizes and celebrates not just the work of Brunswick’s music educators,” Anderson said. “But (also) the commitment of school administrators, community leaders, teachers and parents who believe in music education and are working to ensure that it is part of a well-rounded education for all children.”

Anderson added she hopes to have some students present the award to the Brunswick School Board at its May 9 meeting.

Caitlin Ramsey, band director and instrumental music teacher at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, said the designation includes an “involved application process.”

Part of the application includes answering detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs.

Responses from districts nationwide are reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, which analyzes the data statistically and then verifies it through a follow-up audit.

Ramsey said her district feels “honored and humbled” to receive the honor for the third year, saying in Cape Elizabeth, music is not seen as merely an “extra” subject outside of regular instruction.

Instead, she said, music is seen as being something vital to a well-rounded education for students, which makes the community a wonderful place to be a music educator.

“Our concerts aren’t just events for parents, but are community performances where there is standing-room only,” she said. “Parents and community members regularly take an active role in advocating for the music education of our students.”

Ramsey also talked about the high engagement rate in Cape Elizabeth for music classes: of 1,600 students enrolled in the district, approximately 1,300 take music.

Classroom music is required at the elementary and middle school levels, but in addition, at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, 70 percent of students choose to participate in band and chorus. At Cape Elizabeth High School, 35 percent choose to participate.

She added this year, the district also had 78 middle and high school students selected for regional and state honor festivals.

Anderson also spoke to the importance of music education, saying it provides educational, cognitive and social skills for children who make music. 

“Most importantly, music is an essential part of life, and we couldn’t be prouder of the students, parents, teachers and members of our community who recognize that the cognitive, social and behavioral benefits of music education are designed to last a lifetime,” she said.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

The Cape Elizabeth eighth-grade band at last year’s Memorial Day Parade in Cape Elizabeth. Cape Elizabeth and Brunswick schools were the only ones in the state this year to be named to National Association of Music Merchants’ list of Best Communities for Music Education.

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