Pembroke’s Music Education Program Receives National Recognition
Pembroke has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.
The Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Pembroke answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.
There are 404 school districts in the state of Massachusetts and only 15 of them were recognized by the NAMM Foundation. Pembroke Public Schools is one of those districts. That is a pretty incredible achievement when you consider how young the music program in the town is and how it has grown into such a powerhouse in such few short years. The success of the program is largely due to the of Director Fine & Performing Arts, Gwynne Chapman. Gwynne joined PPS in August of 2005, just one year after Pembroke High School broke away from the Silver Lake Regional High School. In the years since Gwynne joined the district, the program has made amazing leaps and bounds. For example, the band has grown from just 17 students playing band in 2005 to over 120 high school band students today. Building the program from the ground up allowed Gwynne to tailor the vision of the music department and hire teachers who now embody the program. These teachers are true examples of educators who value their students and work very hard to build student relationships. The execution of this vision is clear with large percentage of the student body who choose to participate in the program beyond general music education. The vision is also evidenced by the many hours’ teachers volunteer their time after school, on weekends and holidays to help support the music students in their local music festival performances, and with audition preparation.
This award recognizes that Pembroke is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation guides implementation in the states and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) which was often criticized for an overemphasis on testing-while leaving behind subjects such as music. ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.
The success of the music program stems from the fact that both the school district and the residents of the town have placed a strong emphasis on music and performing arts as part of a well-balanced curriculum. While many other districts have cut budgets in the arts over the years, Pembroke, under the leadership of Superintendent Erin Obey, has always stayed the course with a steadfast commitment to the social/emotional health and wellness initiatives with the music and arts program being a huge component to a well-balanced student experience.
Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music. In a series of landmark studies by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University a link was found between students in community music programs and life-long academic success, including higher high school graduation rates and college attendance. In another study from the University, it was discovered that the benefits of early exposure to music education improves how the brain processes and assimilates sounds, a trait that lasts well into adulthood.
Beyond the Northwestern research, other studies have indicated that music education lays the foundation for individual excellence in group settings, creative problem solving and flexibility in work situations, as well learning how to give and receive constructive criticism to excel.
A 2015 study supported by The NAMM Foundation, “Striking A Chord,” also outlines the overwhelming desire by teachers and parents for music education opportunities for all children as part of the school curriculum.
Students in Pembroke have general music education in grades K-6, however in Grade 5 they can choose to play specific instruments and receive specialized classes. Then elementary chorus programs have over 300 student participants across the three schools with lessons taking place before school. The elementary bands consist of over 120 students and 25 string players. The strength of the music program continues well into middle school where students can choose an elective track of music or the arts which specialized classes such as orchestra, music technology, percussion and intro to rock music among many others. After school, middle school students can participate in Jazz Band Club and there are over 50 students in the Middle School Chorus and 40 students in the 8th grade band. The Middle School Choir, Band and Orchestra perform at the opening ceremony for the Providence Bruins every year, while the Jazz band takes the time to perform for the residents of the New England Village.
The High School program is well known through Massachusetts, with over 140 students in the Marching Band performing locally for parades under the instruction of teacher Austin Glass. There are over 12 High School ensembles ranging from three choirs, three bands, and 1 orchestra in addition to many after school programs that are run by volunteers and student leaders such as jazz band, chamber music and choir.
The Pembroke Music program also manages a private lesson program that takes place after school with over 70 students participating at any given time. The program offers affordable private lessons to students at a much lower rate than most private lessons in the area. This is largely in part to the commitment of Gwynne to the program and the network of musicians she has built over ten years who love to teach our students.
Congratulations to all the Pembroke Public Schools Music Department! With only 10 members, this small but mighty department services over a third of our student body in specialized music programs. We are very proud of the advances this program has made in just over ten years and think that this program serves as an excellent example of how important music is in education.
About The NAMM Foundation
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,300 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving, and public service programs. For more information about the NAMM Foundation, please visit www.nammfoundation.org.