WEST NEWBURY — The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation recently recognized the Pentucket Regional School District with the Best Communities for Music Education award.

For the past 22 years, this honor has been awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

"I am thrilled that our district was awarded this incredible honor," Superintendent Justin Bartholomew said in a statement.

"This award speaks volumes, especially to our music faculty who work so hard and dedicate countless hours in order to provide our students with the best possible musical education," he continued.

To qualify for this honor, each district answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs.

The district adjusted its music program this year to support hybrid and remote learning models. Middle and high school students participating in hybrid learning were given an opportunity to focus on mechanics and musical skills  through assignments tailored to foster independence and self-assessment.

Students at the elementary school level participated in music instruction remotely with educators teaching 15-minute mini lessons to students, individually. 

The district has a long-standing tradition of excellence in its music program, and offers separate middle and high school percussion and jazz programs for credit. Students who have accumulated at least 30 credits in the music department are recognized at their high school graduation.

The district’s music instructors are specialists in their fields of jazz, percussion, strings and woodwinds, and are active in their professional pursuits performing, publishing, recording, presenting and guest conducting.

Pentucket is also a National Association for Music Education Tri-M National Music Honor Society chapter. Students in the program have also earned top awards at the Berklee College of Music, University of New Hampshire, and Massachusetts Association for Jazz Education Jazz Festivals, as well as spots in District, All-State, and All-National ensembles and acceptance into top music schools around the country.

Forty percent of the alumni from last year's graduating class who studied jazz at Pentucket are majoring in music at their college or university, and 22% of last year's class that studied music in the district decided to pursue music as their major. The district has seen similar percentages of students pursue music at the post-secondary level over the past three years.

Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

"Music education intrinsically encompasses the uppermost levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the 4 C’s of 20th Century Learning (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication) to foster higher-order thinking skills in its students," said David Schumacher, district director of jazz.

"In no other academic subject are these crucial opportunities as prevalent or ubiquitous," he continued. "Nor does any other subject offer as clear and innate a path to social and emotional wellness for students. There has never been a more important moment to support music and the arts."

The district has a strong alumni network through its music department. Several alumni participated in the district's virtual Café Jazz event to commemorate the 20th year of the event.

The Pentucket music department says its is grateful to the community groups that have long supported its mission and enabled its work, including the Pentucket Music Boosters, Pentucket Arts Foundation and the Pentucket Education Foundation. Members of the community have also given donations to support the program over the years.

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