Wantagh schools earn national music distinction


Music education is an essential part of the student experience in Wantagh, and that was recently validated with national recognition for the district’s program. For the first time, Wantagh was honored in the NAMM Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education program.

Best Communities for Music Education acknowledges schools and districts across the county for their commitment to music education. Kelly Jones, Wantagh’s director of fine and performing arts and business education, said it was a very thorough application process, detailing the specifics of the K-12 music program, student participation and community support.

“It was a really deep dive into everything we provide our students,” Jones said. “It’s really nice to have this recognition, that we are really working hard for Wantagh’s student musicians to give them as many opportunities as possible.”

Music education begins with general music instruction in kindergarten. Students can join the chorus and orchestra in third grade, and band in fourth grade. By the time they reach high school, students can participate in numerous instrumental and vocal ensembles beyond their music classes, such as chamber orchestra, marching band and A-cappella choir. There are also numerous music electives including audio engineering, choreography and dance, music theory and the Onora le Voci honors chorus.

A well-rounded music program also goes beyond the classroom and concerts. There are music field trips to Broadway shows and the Metropolitan Opera. Students from the band, chorus and orchestra will perform at a pre-game show for a Long Island Ducks game this year, and elementary school students will showcase their talents at Suffolk Community College followed by a trip to Adventureland. In February, high school music students went on an eight-day trip to London, where they saw two shows and performed at a church.

“We’re working together as a department to give the best experience to the students,” Jones said. “We want to give them more exposure to music in the world, because music is always going to be in their lives. It’s great when they choose to become contributors to the music community.”

Music students said they are very appreciative of the opportunities they have in Wantagh to develop their talents. Senior Anthony Lerro, who was selected to the 2023 All-State music festival as a vocalist, has been able to shine on multiple fronts. He sings in the A-cappella choir, was the lead in this year’s musical production of “Jekyll and Hyde” and plays both the alto saxophone and bass guitar with multiple band ensembles.

“The district makes it very easy to be a part of multiple things,” he said. “You’re exposed to music very quickly upon entering Wantagh, and for me, it planted a seed that really grew.”

Junior Avery Bogacki plays the viola in the orchestra and chamber orchestra. She is active in the Drama Club and next year plans to join the chorus for the first time since elementary school.

“The teachers are always there to support us,” she said, adding how hard the music faculty works to help students succeed. “You also get to meet a bunch of other talented musicians, and that inspires you to do better.”

Jones said she is proud that Wantagh has joined the list of more than 1,000 districts that have been recognized in the Best Communities for Music Education program over the last 25 years. She added that the district’s music program is successful because of committed students, well-trained and dedicated teachers, and a supportive board of education, administration and community.

“They understand our vision,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to have the support that we do. It’s all of the extras that we have that really makes our music program special.”