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Posted on Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 10 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools named one of best communities for music education

By Danielle Arndt


Ann Arbor orchestra teacher Joe DeMarsh conducts during a rehearsal at Tappan Middle School on Jan. 17.

Melanie Maxwell I file photo

The Ann Arbor Public Schools was among 307 districts throughout the U.S. to be named to the 2013 Best Communities for Music Education list.

It is a designation awarded annually by the National Association of Music Merchants' nonprofit group, the NAMM Foundation.

Ten other districts from Michigan also were recognized, including Bloomfield Hills Schools, Dearborn Public Schools and Pinckney Community Schools.

The Best Communities for Music Education program acknowledges schools and districts nationwide for their commitment to and support of music education, according to its website. The distinction is given to schools based on survey participation.

Nearly 2,000 districts and schools took part in the 2013 program, answering detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, financial support for the music program and other relevant factors in the community's music education program, the website says. According to the NAMM foundation, the information submitted is verified by district officials and advisory organizations, both of which review the data collected in the survey.

Schools were chosen for the Best Communities award based on their ability to demonstrate a budgetary commitment to music; a variety of opportunities for students to learn music; the presence of highly qualified, certified music teachers; an adherence to state and national standards; and a wealth of performance experiences and competition opportunities offered.

The NAMM Foundation's mission is advancing active participation in music-making across all ages by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs from the international music products industry.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 11:47 p.m.

I participated in music education 6th-12th grade at Pinckney Schools, and the instructors were all fantastic. They really influenced so much more than just music... Congrats to all mentioned!


Sun, Apr 21, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

The BOE cut the choir budget for Pioneer last year in place of something else. Can't remember what. I think it was something to do with sports. A $60,000 budget for choir cut. Now the BOE wants to cut more of the music in 5th and 6th? This will not be a place of music once the BOE gets their axe out to save Balas.


Sun, Apr 21, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

Our experience with FOUR kids through the 5th grade music program was the same each time- numerous students would NEVER practice at home, leading to orchestra and band classes being a waste of time. My kids did the work, but then watched other students goof off and monopolize the band and orchestra teachers time because they needed extra help due to a lack of practice. This, in addition to the numerous times students would leave their instruments at home made the instrumental music experience a waste of time. Before you start bashing me, remember this was our experience, and is WAS frustrating. Then getting to middle school with mandatory music- a band teacher who had a strong four letter word vocabulary, and a choir teacher who spent most of her time on her laptop rather than teaching. One of my kids had strong natural talent on his instrument, but his experience in school made him lose interest, sadly.

West Side Mom

Sun, Apr 21, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

Congratulations to all of AAPS' music teachers. The recognition is well-deserved. And a special recognition and thanks to the music teachers in our schools - Cary Kocher, Melissa Overhiser and Doug Horn. We think you are great!


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Congratulations to the music teachers and students of Ann Arbor. And also to the supportive parents of those music students, both vocal and instrumental, who make the sacrifices in time, effort and money to help their kids perform at this level. Well done! While I agree that instrumental music opportunities should remain available to AAPS elementary school students, I'd like to speak out for those students with zero interest in playing an instrument, for whatever reason. We shouldn't be waiting as late as 5th grade to teach music reading, and we shouldn't be forcing all students to be music participants, regardless of their desire, their parents' desires, or their individual readiness for instruction in this subject. Music appreciation can be as large a contributor to life-long enjoyment as forcing a 5th grader who'd rather not be so directly involved to try out the cello or clarinet. The [one size fits all approach taken by AAPS has left my particular kids very anti-school-band / orchestra, to the point of refusing to accompany me to concerts featuring performances by the more-musical children of friends.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

This is great news for AAPS! But the article does say that part of the award decision process is seeing a budgetary commitment to music. Let's hope that the BOE members read this and decide not to cut 5th grade instrumental music. Many kids do NOT take music lessons outside of school before this time. Yes, many do, but not everyone. The 5th grade year gives many kids their first chance to learn how to read music and begin playing an instrument. This gives them a base for being in a more structured music program in middle school and beyond. By high school, many of the kids are taking private lessons on their instruments. No one can expect the music teachers to teach every member of the bands and orchestras how to play their particular instrument well. What they can do is continue to provide an amazing group setting for playing and performing music together. The bands at Pioneer High School have about 250 kids meeting in a 50 minute class once a day. (Spread out over 4-5 classes per day.) There are probably another 200 in the orchestra program. There are also huge numbers at Huron and Skyline. These highly accomplished music programs attract people to Ann Arbor Public Schools. With cuts to the base of the program, AAPS may find that they cannot maintain such high standards. If you have a chance to catch a high school band or orchestra performance, do it. You will see what wonderful music programs we have in Ann Arbor. Let's keep it that way!


Sun, Apr 21, 2013 : 5:51 p.m.

The BOE is only in it to save themselves and to save Balas. The money machine So unless parents step up and make BOE tear apart Balas? Say goodbye to the music dept.


Sun, Apr 21, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

Or allow students who want to play in 5th grade do so and those who don't want to can choose to work on academics in class. Not all students want to play an instrument and not all parents want their children to play an instrument. I am glad my child did not choose to play because we do not have the space to allow him to practice or the finances to keep pace with other students.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

No surprise here. We've known this for decades. Keep it up.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

So please don't delay instrumental instruction until 6th grade. Students really need to have a feeling for an instrument before they commit to it in middle school.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

The most important reason this is true is that Ann Arbor area parents are willing to pay for ongoing private lessons for their children. The school system then molds that privately developed talent into outstanding student orchestras and bands. We've also been blessed with some outstanding teachers, like Daniel Long.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

My observation has been that many kids take piano or stringed instrument lessons before 5th grade. Don't know of anyone who took lessons on a brass instrument before that time.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

Dan Long and M>J> Quigley...what a terrific legacy from two of the best!


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Exactly!! Anyone who wants to do a survey could find out how many kids have been taking private lessons for years before school instrument class starts.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

Back in the days of Mr. Boggs, Ypsi schools were probably THE best. Miss those days.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Hopefully this will survive the upcoming budget cuts.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

I agree! Well deserved and way to go