Music to our ears: Chatham County Schools celebrates top music education honor

By John Wood

Pittsboro, NC – For a sixth year in a row, Chatham County Schools has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. Now in its 25th year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement for providing music access and education to all students. CCS is one of only two districts statewide to earn this award this year. 

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Chatham County Schools 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 by school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas. 

“Chatham County Schools has talented students and dedicated music educators who believe in the power of music. Research tells us that quality music programs benefit our students in so many ways,” Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services and Instructional Support Dr. Amanda Moran said. “Music can entertain us, inspire us, and allows many of our students to find that safe place where they feel they can express themselves. We are proud that music education is one of the many quality instructional programs in CCS.” 

“This award recognizes the collaborative partners working hard to provide quality music education for all K-12 students in Chatham County Schools,” lead CCS arts teacher Sharon Allen said. “Music teachers are supported by their local and district administrators along with community organizations such as the Chatham Arts

Council, Triangle Youth Music, Northwood Arts Education Foundation, and JMArts – just to name a few. The result is that students receive a comprehensive music education, including exposure to professional musicians and opportunities for students to share their talents with the community.” 

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school but also to attend college as well. In addition, everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.