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Wichita school district recognized as among best for music education

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 25, 2013, at 5:13 p.m.

The Wichita school district is one of five in Kansas to be listed among the 2013 Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants, district officials announced Thursday.

The designation recognizes schools or districts that preserve music programs and make music education a vital part of their curriculum.

“Our (school) board continues to support music and fine arts, and that makes a difference,” said Shawn Chastain, coordinator of fine arts for the Wichita district.

More than 30,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade are involved in the Wichita district’s music programs, from twice-a-week music classes in elementary schools to high school bands, orchestras and choirs, Chastain said.

“There is overwhelming research tying music education to higher overall student success in school and in life,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the California-based National Association of Music Merchants, in a statement on the group’s website.

“This designation recognizes communities for their commitment to music education and strengthens support for these programs.”

Two years ago, the Wichita district eliminated its fifth-grade orchestra program and cut several middle school band and orchestra teaching positions as part of nearly $28 million in budget cuts.

At a middle school band festival at Stucky Middle School on Thursday, however, Chastain said participation in school bands and orchestras has remained steady.

“The numbers are there,” he said. “There’s still a lot of interest in music. … even with so many other activities competing for students’ time.”

Four other Kansas districts – Goessel, Norton, Spring Hill and Westmoreland – also made this year’s Best Communities for Music Education list.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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