Linden among best in music education for a 7th year

guitar class

Even in a virtual world, Linden’s music education program is the real thing.

Linden Public Schools have been named among the Best Communities for Music Education in America for the seventh year in a row. Linden is one of about 685 districts across the country to be chosen for the prestigious honor for 2021.

The NAMM Foundation (National Association of Music Merchants) has recognized the district for its outstanding commitment to music education. Linden is one of just 41 districts in New Jersey and four in Union County to be selected.

The Linden High School Marching Band under the direction of Anthony Spano perform during a football game in the fall of 2020.

“This honor is a testament of how valuable the arts are in Linden,” said Matthew Lorenzetti, supervisor of fine and performing arts. “As a district, we are very fortunate to have such strong support from all our upper administration as well as the Board of Education. We have a staff of music teachers that would do anything for their students.

“This has been extremely evident this past year as we have all dealt with the challenges put before us because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to maintaining a safe environment during these time, the focus has not only been on teaching music, but also the mental health of our students.”

Members of the McManus Middle School choir under the direction of Courtney Serpone perform “Happy Holidays” virtually for a district holiday video in December 2020.

Lorenzetti explained that teachers spent countless hours learning how to incorporate social and emotional learning into the arts, in addition to using multiple new digital platforms to teach and record students in order to give them as close to a “normal” music education as possible.

“Our students are doing extremely well despite the difficulties of being mostly virtual and not being able to perform or rehearse in-person in ensembles,” he said.

Now in its 22nd year, Best Communities for Music Education highlights outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders who work together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum.

Bernard Mathews teaches a guitar class at Linden High School on the first day of in-person instruction in February 2021.

“We’re very excited to have received this prestigious honor for the seventh year in row,” said Superintendent Dr. Marnie Hazelton. “It is a testament to the dedication of our administrators, teachers, and students that we have been able to maintain this level of excellence year after year. Music is always a critical part of our curriculum in Linden, but it was especially vital in the year of the pandemic to give students a creative outlet as they dealt with the realities of COVID-19 and virtual learning.”

The BCME survey was sent to nearly 14,000 school districts across the country asking 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 Center for Public Partnerships and Research, an affiliate of the University of Kansas.

Lisa Mallick leads School No. 4 second-graders as they sing for Hispanic Heritage Month in October 2020.

Lorenzetti said he has sat in on numerous classes throughout the year and was very impressed with the level of skills from students “despite the nontraditional methods of teaching.”

“I could not be prouder to be part of such an extraordinary department,” he said. “I am looking forward to the end of the year when we will be sharing numerous virtual performances of what our students have been working on this year.”

– Story by Gary Miller

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