Ferndale was named a "Best Community for Music Education" this week by the NAMM Foundation's 13th annual Best Communities for Music Education survey, which acknowledges districts and schools for their commitment to music education as part of the core curriculum.
Out of 237 school programs that submitted surveys, 176 communities were recognized.
Ferndale Schools band director and K-12 performing arts coordinator Elon Jamison said the recognition is a reminder of the strong support the music program has from the school district and community.
"It's nice to get that recognition outside our own community and it's certainly exciting to be recognized two years in a row," he said. "It's very telling in terms of the level of support and the strength of the program."
Ferndale was also .
Ferndale has big offerings for small district, Jamison says
The district's music program includes a vocal music program that begins in kindergarten, instrumental music beginning in fourth grade, band, orchestra and choir programs for middle and high school, and a State Championship marching band.
What Ferndale offers for music education is especially significant considering the district's small size, Jamison said.
"We're still offering basically everything," he said. "We have most everything that schools two, three or four times our size have."
Audrey Langley, a Ferndale Schools parent who serves on the district's Fine Arts Boosters committee, said the program deserves the honor.
"As a former FHS grad myself, I am very proud of the district's commitment to fine arts, especially music," she said. "My children benefit greatly from their time spent in the different programs."
Music teachers go 'above and beyond'
Langley said she believes the teachers play a big role in the program's success. "They truly deserve the honor. The dedication they have to the kids is amazing," she said. "They spend countless hours outside of their regular teaching job supporting and advising their students. They're more than just teachers: they are mentors, cheerleaders, coaches, colleagues, and family to their students."
The music teachers in the district go "above and beyond," she said.
"Music is important. Research continuously shows the importance of music instruction on student achievement and success," Langley said. "I consider Ferndale to be ahead of the game in this respect."
For Jamison, the rewards of being involved in music education go beyond the day-to-day teaching and performances.
"Music touches the soul, the heart and the mind in a way that nothing else really does and in a way that can't entirely be put into words," Jamison said. "The opportunity and ability to share that experience with kids is really amazing."
Music and performance is powerful in other ways, too: For students, it's an opportunity to learn math, teamwork and other life skills.
"All of those reasons are why I teach music. It's the opportunity to share all that with these kids," he said. "What I find is that if you're willing to work for them, these kids will work for you. That's how we've been so successful. It's a mutual relationship between teachers and students."
Designation can help with music education advocacy
NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen said she encourages communities to use the designation as a cornerstone of advocacy for music education programs.
"We know that communities are struggling to maintain funding for many education programs and we applaud these communities that remain committed to a complete and quality education that must include music and the arts," Luehrsen said in a news release. "We urge communities to celebrate the designation as a national recognition for their commitment to children and most of all, keep the music playing in their schools for years to come."
Each school receiving the “Best Communities” designation scored in the 80th percentile or higher in the survey's grading process. The survey included questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities and support for the music program.
The other Michigan communities recognized in the 2012 survey are Troy, Berkley, Bloomfield Hills, Fraser, Jenison (near Grand Rapids), and Ann Arbor. For more information, visit www.nammfoundation.org.