Assistant School Superintendent Kelly Roberts, left, recognizes Putnam County Charter School System’s music teachers at the board of education meeting Monday night, May 14. The school system was named one of the 2018 Best Communities in Music Education. Pictured with Roberts are, from left, Putnam County Middle School band teacher Matt Jernigan, Putnam County High School band teacher J.R. Beckwith, and Putnam County Primary School music teacher Sarah Higgins. BOE Chairman Dr. Steve Weiner told the teachers “thank you for all you do, and for all the extra time you put in, for which we also thank your families.”

Compiled by Lena Hensley
The Eatonton Messenger
May 17, 2018

The Putnam County Charter School System has been honored with the 2018 Best Communities for Music Education designation from The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.

The Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. To qualify for the Best Communities designation, the Putnam County Charter School System answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

According to Julian R. Beckwith, director of Bands and Entertainment Technology at Putnam County High School, there are a lot of opportunities for the students to excel in music at PCHS. A variety show called “Fine Arts Night” is done each semester. Each spring, they do a Broadway musical that includes all facets of the Fine Arts Department. This year, they are presenting “Little Shop of Horrors” by Alan Menken.

“Various types of technology are utilized in our arts classes,” Beckwith said. “In piano class, a camera is used to project the teacher’s keyboard so the students can see what she is doing from their own workstations. In band and chorus classes, notation software is used to compose, arrange and differentiate selections to fit the ability levels of a wide range of skill levels. These groups also use audio recording and editing software to mix performance tracks and edit songs for length or content.”

PCHS bands, choruses and special small ensembles perform at events throughout the community, including the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day observation and Celebrate Patriotism, an event held each year before Memorial Day.

PCHS Entertainment Technology students support many events, including an internship program with The Plaza Arts Center, events with Main Street Eatonton, productions for the Oconee Performing Arts Society and the annual Athens Jazz Festival.

The school’s Thespian Society chapter has students audition for and perform in the All-State Musical in Columbus each February.

PCHS Band students audition for and perform with Georgia Music Educators Association District, Region and All-State Honor Bands and Honor Jazz Bands.

Each September, PCHS saxophone players participate in the Annual Atlanta Saxophone Day held at Georgia State University.

“This is an opportunity for our students to play new and challenging music, participate in advanced master classes with world-class clinicians and performers and get acquainted with saxophone players of all ages from throughout the Southeast,” said Beckwith.

In December, PCHS low-brass players perform with the Athens chapter of TUBA Christmas, an international organization that promotes excellence in low-brass playing through this gathering for a day of traditional holiday music.

Kathy Carroll, music and performing arts teacher at Putnam County Elementary School, said she really appreciates the support from School Superintendent Eric Arena and the school board. She said they provide adequate funding for an amazing music program at the elementary level. Music is taught by integrating quaver music technology so students are able to create their own music using the latest of composition techniques as well as learning important music theory and music history in a fun and exciting way. Carroll is able to teach ukulele; and keyboard recorder and drumming techniques are available to all students in third through fifth grade as well as xylophone ensembles that teach harmony melody and note reading concepts. At the elementary school, there is a major emphasis on vocal technique, dance and movement that prepares students to do well with their yearly musical theatre productions.

“Because of the support of the community that buys tickets for PCES performances and the financial support of the school system, we are able to put on professional level musicals at The Plaza Arts Center in Eatonton,” Carroll said. “We are thankful that the school system works in conjunction with The Plaza so we are able to use these beautiful facilities.”

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music. In a series of landmark studies by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University, a link was found between students in community music programs and life-long academic success, including better high school graduation rates and college attendance. In another study from the University, it was discovered that the benefits of early exposure to music education improved how the brain processes and assimilates sounds, a trait that lasts well into adulthood.

Beyond the Northwestern research, other studies have indicated that music education lays the foundation for individual excellence in group settings, creative problem solving and flexibility in work situations as well as learning how to give and receive constructive criticism to excel.

This award also recognizes that the Putnam County Charter School System is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation guides implementation in the states and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was often criticized for an overemphasis on testing while leaving behind subjects such as music. ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.

The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,300 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music making across the life span by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs.