FLORENCE, S.C. – For the sixth consecutive year, the Florence One Schools district has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.

Now in its 20th year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Florence One Schools answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas reviewed and verified responses with school officials.

“Florence 1 Schools is honored to be recognized again this year by the NAMM Foundation,” said Laura Greenway, Florence One Schools’ coordinator of the performing arts. “Music is such a strong component in our schools and in the Florence community. Every event we sponsor features some component of music presented by our students and teachers.

“We recognize that music makes a difference in the lives of children both educationally and emotionally in ways that nothing else can. Thank you NAMM Foundation for bestowing this honor on us once again.”

This award recognizes that the Florence One Schools district is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation guides implementation in the states and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was often criticized for an overemphasis on testing-while leaving behind subjects such as music. ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.

"Music education is an extremely important subject for all children,” said Mark Jackson, the orchestra teacher at Williams Middle School and Wilson High School. “Music can lead to better brain development, increase in human connection, integration of many different subjects, teaching self-discipline and relieving stress.”

Jackson’s orchestra students and students of other orchestra teachers in the district’s schools recently performed for an auditorium full of parents and Florence residents at the all city orchestra concert.

According to Greenway, the Florence 1 Schools Arts Initiative awarded $1 million dollars for musical instruments and equipment for arts classrooms in the 2018-19 school year through the leadership of Superintendent Richard O'Malley and the Florence One Schools board.

“Expansion is planned for additional art and music teachers to continue building a stronger arts program,” Greenway said.

Greenway further explained the effect that support of the arts has had on the music program in Florence One Schools.

“When our students began receiving the new instruments and equipment they were overwhelmed,” she said. “Our students had witnessed other schools with equipment they had only dreamed of having. Our children compete and perform statewide and are now on an equal playing ground with quality instruments.

“I see students taking pride in performing in public with these new instruments. We are now teaching new instruments that we did not have before such as oboe, or in some cases, French horn. We are not afraid to reach for the moon since Dr. O'Malley has shown belief in our program!”

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music.

After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate from high school but also to attend college.

Everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention and keep sounds in memory.

Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound. Young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Social benefits of music lessons include conflict resolution, teamwork skills and how to give and receive constructive criticism.

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