The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation has named the Bellmore School District one of the Best Communities for Music Education. Roughly 4 percent, or 527, of the nation’s districts are being acknowledged this year, and roughly 30 percent are in New York. This is the second consecutive year that Bellmore has earned the distinction.
Districts that want to be considered complete a survey and send it to the NAMM Foundation, which examines the results with the help of faculty members from Kansas University’s Music Research Institute. The judges consider a district’s accessibility to music programs, music program funding, music education facilities, district and school support and other factors that contribute to music education as a whole.
Bellmore schools offer second-grade students instruction in violin and opportunities to perform in front of their parents. Music teachers at individual schools offer their own music programs, such as the Ukulele Club at Shore Road Elementary and Recorder Karate at Winthrop Elementary, in which students learn to play the recorder by progressing through increasing levels of difficulty named after karate belts. (They earn black belts when they can play the Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On.”)
“Watching their little eyes light up when they play is wonderful,” said instructor Erica Davis. Students also have the opportunity to play at the Suffolk County Music Educators Association’s Recorder Festival.
Sharon Bryant, the NAMM foundation’s senior project manager, who has been with the foundation for 19 years, said that being named a Best Community fosters “community pride and recognition from school administrators, board members, parents and community leaders.”
According to Bryant, the Best Communities for Music Education distinction holds school districts to higher standards, and helps music education to be viewed as just as important as subjects like math or science.
Davis said that the Bellmore district’s music program is a key part of its curricular and extracurricular activity. Davis has 38 years of experience teaching vocal music and a Level III Orff-Schulwerk certification, and is past president of the Long Island chapter of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association. Developed by German composer Carl Orff, the Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education incorporates music, movement, drama and speech into lessons that are easily accessible to children. All of the district’s music teachers are trained in this approach to teaching.
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit that advocates for music education, funds scientific research into the relationship between playing or listening to music and physical and mental well-being, and hosts music-related programs and opportunities. It also sponsors the SupportMusic Coalition, which brings together music educators, businesses, nonprofits and residents in an effort to bring music education to schools and communities.