By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – The Northborough/Southborough Public Schools formed a music study group last year to review the current music programs, cite program strengths and growth opportunities, and make improvement recommendations. The study group shared their report at the Combined School Committee meeting held on Sept. 16.
The 22 member team of educators and community members was facilitated by Director of English Language Education Rhoda Webb.
Survey responses from over 2,000 parents, students and alumni were received. Students found participation in the music program a way to manage stress, increase confidence, and gain a sense of belonging to a community. The high quality of instruction and the variety of ensembles and performance opportunities offered were also mentioned.
The high percentage of student involvement in the programs for children of all needs, the inventory of instruments available to prevent barriers for children to learn an instrument, and the support of the Northborough Southborough Music Association were recognized as part of the study.
Feasibility studies were recommended to gain information on the ability to schedule weekly music classes at the Pre-K level and to add a string program for Northborough elementary and middle school students. Researching alternative scheduling ideas to lessen student conflicts with music was also suggested.
Currently, the high school requires a half year of either art, drama or music or a class from the applied arts area. Superintendent Greg Martineau said that many students exceed that requirement.
Connecting to the community as a means to increase the visibility of the music programs was considered important. Regional School Committee member Karen Ares agreed.
“Anyone who goes to these concerts and performances are blown away by the talent of our kids and our faculty who bring these talents to our children, but I feel they are not shared enough with the public,” she said.
Additional community support in funding was raised by Regional School Committee member Dr. Kathleen Howland, who teaches at Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory. She often speaks about the research showing the connection between music and proper brain development and proven lifelong benefits.
“The monies that are raised by the Music Association pale in comparison to other organizations and I would like to see an increase in that community support for the arts,” said Howland. “I am asking as a school board member for the community to really consider this asset and funding it with more support outside of the school budget.”