By Chris Bavender
The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township has received the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. The award is presented to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.
“This honor is really indicative of the hard work our performing arts staff does throughout the year to provide high quality music education to thousands of students in Lawrence Township Schools,” said Kayla Smith, co-director of the Lawrence Central Choirs and the performing arts department chair. “I think it also speaks to the high level of support the Lawrence Township and school-level administration provides for music education in the first grade through graduation.”
The school district applies each year, providing information about its demographics, music programs, teacher qualifications, enrollment and involvement, funding and professional development available to music educators. This year, 738 districts across the nation received the award.
“Music education is an important part of a well-rounded education and helps students excel both academically and socially,” said Damon Clevenger, elementary regional specialist for Lawrence Township and general music specialist at Winding Ridge Elementary. “Music class provides students the opportunity to express themselves, work collaboratively, and learn aurally, visually, and kinesthetically. For many students, music classes can help foster a sense of belonging to the school community.”
Smith and Clevenger agree students of all ages are extremely receptive to music education.
“All students in grades one through six have the opportunity to take music at least once a week for 45 minutes,” Clevenger said. “In these classes, students can be found actively making and interacting with music by singing, chanting, playing instruments, moving, dancing, creating, listening, interpreting, analyzing, and so much more. For many students, music class is their favorite part of the day.”
“About 20 percent of the school is slated to participate in our programs at Lawrence Central next year, and our numbers continue to grow as we recover from school shutdowns in light of COVID,” Smith said.
In an era when many school districts are dropping classes involving music and other arts, Smith said it’s encouraging to know she teaches in a township that values teaching the arts.
“It provides a sense of job security and program security, which gives us the confidence to continually build and improve what we do here,” she said.