The Montezuma-Cortez Middle School music program was recently honored with a national award for its inclusiveness and excellence.
This was the first year M-CMS applied for the SupportMusic Merit Award, sponsored by the NAMM Foundation, said band director Andrew Campo. The middle school was one of 148 programs across the country and three in the state to receive it.
“This award is just officially confirming what we’ve said time and again,” said Drew Pearson, M-CMS assistant principal and activities director, in a statement. “Our music department is one of the best out there.”
Along with Campo, the M-CMS music department includes choir teacher Marla Sitton and Alex Mohr, the assistant band director who also taught general music this year.
The NAMM Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the National Association of Music Merchants and supports musical education and access to musical education. The foundation recognizes schools and districts for their own commitments toward these efforts.
“Now in its 21st year, the Best Communities for Music Education (district level) and the SupportMusic Merit Award (school level) offers national recognition and visibility for school music programs, and honors the efforts of educators, administrators, students and community music education champions who share in the common goal to ensure access to music for all students as part of the curriculum,” states the NAMM Foundation website.
The organization emphasizes the importance of music for children, in terms of cognitive skills, along with social and emotional development.
“It fills a void in ourselves,” Campo said. “Music is a very unique thing that everyone all over the world enjoys and appreciates, and it helps them feel more human. And then it’s got the extra aesthetic things that are always touted – things like teamwork and working together and depending on each other and working hard and budgeting your time.”
A big reason he feels M-CMS received the award is because of the music program’s inclusivity, and efforts to make sure all students have access to their programming and to instruments. This past year, more than 50% of middle school students took some sort of music class, and over the years staff members have applied for programs and sought donations in order to offer instruments for all students.
“We have an inventory of over 200 instruments that we end up distributing to the students,” Campo said.
Their program’s generations of success have helped draw students and families in, he said.
“I think it’s tradition and I think it’s success,” Campo said.
Right now, music teachers and students are trying to figure out how to adjust classes and programming to fit the remote learning model, which has been challenging, Campo said.
“Some subjects obviously are a little more conducive to online learning, and music is trickier,” Campo said.
Choir director Marla Sitton is looking for technology to help students sing together, but broadband and internet issues have made that somewhat difficult, Campo said. Band students are being asked to try out different tunes on their own, using the program SmartMusic – the school has a data license for the software, and the company has now opened up access to students for free for the next two months, allowing them to download any music from its library, along with using some of its online practice tools.