HONESDALE—For the third year in a row, the Wayne Highlands School District (WHSD) was named “Best Communities for Music Education” award from the NAMM Foundation, a nonprofit supporting organization of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).

WHSD is one of 92 school districts in Pennsylvania and one of 623 nationwide to received this award.

The award, now in its 20th year, distinguishes districts with superlative music education, discerned through a questionnaire asking about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities and support for music programs.

“We're very proud and excited to receive the award,” said Gregory Frigoletto, WHSD Superintendent, noting arts educations in general “... transcends to become a community effort,” in the support it receives from district denizens and directors of education alike.

Director of Performing Arts, Scott Miller stated, “To win this three years in a row, I'd like to think we're doing something really right here.”

Miller explained the K-12 music program starts with general music foundational skill development on which students can later branch into more specialized classes in high school and extracurricular activities such as chorus, band and the annual school musicals.

The WHSD music program has seen a growing interest in participation over the years said Miller, noting specifically that the students involved in the Honesdale High School (HHS) musicals rises from year to year.

“That speaks volumes of what we're doing,” he said.

Additionally, while not a core feature of the high school curriculum, 25 percent of the student body (roughly 200 students) is involved in the music education program, said Miller.

“Learning appreciation for music adds value to everything you're doing,” said Miller.

Eugene Hopkins, music program department chair, added he is proud that “from the elementary level, teachers take lessons and get hands on, and develop a love for music at a young age.”

As an example of hands-on learning, Hopkins noted students at Wayne Highlands Middle School have access to guitars to learn the basics of playing music.

Similarly, Preston School recently acquired a series of keyboards through the Music and the Brain program for practical music instruction.

“We try to keep things consistent,” Hopkins stated, noting each of the six schools in the district, while having some unique qualities in their music resources, keep students on a level instruction such that “...students in the high school blend perfectly together.”

“We are truly, truly lucky to have some of the best students,” he said, adding, “We have a tremendous staff...that always has the students' best interests in mind and looking to challenge them as musicians.”

WHSD music educators include Betty Ann Robson and Martha Curtis in the high school, Eugene Hopkins and Rembert Meszler in the middle school, Alyse Srebro at Lakeside Elementary, Alicia Moyer at Stourbridge Primary Center, Chris Gallo at Damascus School and Erin Canedy at Preston School.

Hopkins noted the students' success begins with strong community and parental support.

Highlighting support for the program, Miller explained the auditoriums are frequently packed full to bursting for concerts and plays taking place throughout the district.

He added that WHSD band and chorus members are frequently invited to perform at both community events, as well as in other parts of the state.

The HHS chorus was invited to sing at Knoebels earlier this year and the HHS band was asked play at the Pennsylvania School Board Association banquet in Hershey this October.