Opportunities to learn to make music are abound within Montgomery County Public Schools, and recently the district received an award that celebrates its dedication to music education.
Montgomery County is now on a list of “Best Communities in Music Education.”
“We have an intentional focus on supporting the arts in this district,” explained Brian Kipps, principal of Blacksburg High School. “We keep (musical education) at the forefront. We invest in it.”
Kipps was referring to the entire district and the school board that governs it. “And a lot of kids stay involved in music their entire lives,” he affirmed.
The award was given by the National Association of Musical Merchants (NAMM), the same folks who market instruments used in schools. They made sure that Senator Mark Warner knew about the county’s recognition, and in turn he wrote a letter of congratulations to the district.
“There is a long list of criteria,” said Glen Chilcote, music teacher at Kipps Elementary. NAMM wants to be sure school districts are giving children numerous opportunities to learn and enjoy music.
Chilcote explained that kids in elementary school get at least two opportunities (about 2.5 hours) to learn musical skills every week. Sometimes he is able to find ways to offer more time to groups who are particularly enthusiastic. Students and parents often agree to arrive early or stay late to take advantage of extracurricular musical pursuits.
“The community and parents are really supportive of fine arts and realize its value,” Chilcote said.
They donate time, money and support his program in other ways, the teacher said.
Music education “teaches to the whole child,” Chilcote said. “They learn skills and traits that will last forever.” Teaching music gives him an opportunity to “teach how to set a goal and reach it.”
Community residents are familiar with high school bands they see at parades and football games. They might be less familiar with the instruments that kids get to try out in elementary schools.
“Xylophone, ukelele, recorder, drums,” Chilcote listed, and there are more. Some middle and high schools offer guitar lessons.
He recounted that at Auburn High School, a collaboration between technology classes and guitar classes enabled students to build their own guitars and perform for school board members.
“The school board here is incredibly supportive of the arts,” said Chilcote.
Director of Secondary Education Carl Pauli said he is grateful the school board supports arts education in all schools. He said NAMM’s recognition proves Montgomery County is an example of how a musical program thrives when there is commitment from the community.