The Davis school district was one of nine in California to be honored as one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” for 2014.
School districts receiving the recognition “make a strong commitment to music education in the core curriculum, supporting its essential value to a well-rounded education for every child,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants, which organizes the annual awards.
“Strong, engaging programs that offer students access to music cannot thrive in a vacuum,” Luehrsen continued. “The ‘Best Communities’ designation brings hard-won and well-deserved visibility to music classes, programs and departments that are keeping music education alive in our schools.”
Some 376 school districts nationwide received the “Best Communities” designation.
The music program in the Davis school district has grown significantly during the past decade, with more students signing up for music classes, and more classes being offered. String instruments are taught in Davis elementary schools, there are orchestras at the junior high schools and there are three string ensembles at Davis High School.
Band instruments are also taught at the elementary, junior high and high school levels, and there are multiple choral ensembles as well.
The school district music program also has both auditioned ensembles — which can be quite competitive — and non-auditioned ensembles — open to students who just want to play or try singing — creating opportunities for students who have taken music lessons for years, as well as students who have recently developed an interest.
Davis High also offers Advanced Placement courses in topics like music theory, which are not available in some school districts.
Music teachers from around the school district gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the recognition.
“It’s awesome,” said Tom Slabaugh, band director at Davis High. “It’s nice to be recognized for the accomplishments of the community,” he added, emphasizing that the school district’s music program could not have grown to its present stature without broad support from parents and others who believe music is important.
Karen Gardias, who directs three choral ensembles at Davis High — Madrigals, Advanced Treble Choir and Concert Choir — agreed that “it’s a validation for the community. They deserve the recognition for the immense support they give. They put their trust in us to provide stellar opportunities for their children.”
Kim Cole, who teaches music at multiple elementary schools, credited the students as well: “Children in Davis are amazing. They really are.”
Veronica Tonus, who joined the district as a music teacher this year, said it was a pleasure to land a job here, working alongside several experienced teachers she already knew.
“It feels like home here, like I’ve moved into my mentors’ district,” Tonus said.
Bill Zinn is the “road warrior” among music teachers at the secondary level, leading choral ensembles at each of the three junior high schools as well as the Jazz Choir at Davis High.
“And I like that, because I’ve got all of the junior high choral music program, and I’m still connected to the high school,” he explained. “And the award is wonderful, it’s very nice to be recognized.”
Angelo Moreno, who conducts the three string ensembles at Davis High, as well as an orchestra at Holmes Junior High, added that the award also should be seen as recognition of the work of private music teachers in Davis. A high percentage of music students in Davis take private lessons on their instrument, or voice lessons, particularly at the junior high and high school levels.
“The excellent private teachers in our community support the school music program, which also makes the city of Davis an exceptional place for music education,” Moreno said.
Parent Hiram Jackson, a longtime supporter of local school music programs, thanked the community for continued support of music during the past six years of budgetary stress at the school district.
“Given all that the district has gone through since 2008, it is fortunate that we have been able to keep the school music program intact,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of folks to thank for that, including parents, teachers, administrators and the community at large. I think this designation is a fitting recognition of those efforts.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.