MORRIS – Don Stinson has been trying to make an identity for his band.
Stinson, the marching band director for Morris Community High School, said the program has grown from 40 students to 105 in the five years he’s taught there – and it’s now being recognized on a national level.
Morris Community High School is one of 96 schools nationwide this year that received the SupportMusic Merit Award designation as part of the Best Communities for Music Education Program, presented by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation.
The NAMM Foundation said the 376 districts that were designated as Best Communities for Music Education, and the 96 individual schools that received the Merit Award, were chosen from more than 2,000 schools and districts that participated this year.
“These schools and districts make a strong commitment to music education in the core curriculum supporting its essential value to a well-rounded education for every child,” NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen said in a news release. “Strong, engaging programs that offer students access to music cannot thrive in a vacuum. The Best Communities designation and the SupportMusic Merit Award bring hard-won visibility to music classes, programs and departments that are keeping music education alive in our schools.”
Now in its 15th year, the program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards and access to music instruction.
Morris Community High School Principal Kelly Hussey said the school is flattered to have won the award.
“We support a broad-based opportunity for education with our students,” Hussey said. “Our students leave well-rounded because of their experiences.”
Stinson, along with choral director Alyssa Napolitano, are proud of the work the students have put into their programs. Together they have created new programs and events, such as a guest artist series, and have had professional clinicians work with the students.
“Schools exist to meet the needs of our students, whether they be academic, athletic, artistic or all of the above,” Stinson said. “Being recognized as a SupportMusic 2014 Merit Award winner is a wonderful testament to the work that the students, faculty, colleagues, administration, parents, and community have put into their high school music program to suit the needs of our fine and performing arts students.”
The Morris music department has worked hard to ensure its music standards align with state and national standards, and that it follows those standards.
Stinson said one of the toughest standards is composing in the classroom. In their final band concert, those attending will hear two original student compositions.
He said what sets Morris apart from other schools is the support of the administration.
“Ms. Napolitano and I are very fortunate to have an administration such as Dr. Halloran, Mr. Hussey, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Dergo in the students’ corner. All of them have greatly supported our programs, and have been very accepting to new and innovative ideas in the music classroom,” Stinson said. “I’ve been to many high school band and choir concerts, and I can tell you honestly that many of my colleagues at other schools have never even met their superintendent, while ours, our principals, and our athletic director regularly attend our kids’ events.
“The SupportMusic 2014 Merit Award is a great recognition of the work of our students, school, and community,” he continued. “Our band, choir, and general music programs try to instill musicianship, integrity, leadership, and discipline into our students, while also being an environment for the students to feel welcomed. We are extremely proud of our students and school, and will certainly celebrate this, but it does raise the bar for us.”