CUSD receives NAMM Best Communities for Music Education award

By CUSD Insider staff

For the second year in a row, a Carlsbad-based nonprofit has awarded top honors to music education at the Capistrano Unified School District.

In early April, the NAMM Foundation bestowed CUSD with its Best Communities for Music Education distinction. The district, which offers music for all students in grades K-12, was one of only 24 districts to receive the honor in California and one of 738 nationwide.

To receive the honor, CUSD answered detailed questions about its music education funding, graduation requirements, class participation, instruction time, facilities and program support, according to Kory Wentzel, a district elementary music teacher and administrative assistant principal (ATAP).

Each application’s results were verified and reviewed by the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

“It shows you the health of the program,” Wentzel said of the award, which NAMM has issued for 23 years. “We answered things like, ‘Are you giving music to everybody?’ ‘What is your music program like?’ ‘Are you meeting daily, weekly?’ Fortunately, we have a fully funded program.”

Wentzel added that NAMM’s award came after the district was challenged to provide music education during the distance learning of the pandemic.

Capistrano Unified uses a block program style at the elementary level, Wentzel noted, which allows students to pursue their music and not lose any time for other fields of instruction.

“It’s a tribute to our teachers. Our program has been a blueprint for other districts to use,” Wentzel said. “This year has been wonderful, to be in the classroom. We’re kind of feeling normal again.”

In a prepared statement, Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the NAMM Foundation, wrote, “Music educators, administrators, and communities truly rallied to support and sustain music education through a period of intense change and adaptation. These districts and schools persevered in serving their students and communities and assured that music education was part of curriculum offerings. We applaud the commitment and efforts of all music educators, school administrators, and community members in providing students the opportunity to explore their creativity through music.”

Capistrano Unified’s offerings are comprehensive and include the following:

  • weekly instruction for kindergarten through third grade;
  • strings (violin, viola and cello) and general music for 4th and 5th grade;
  • choir and full band for 5th grade;
  • and strings, band and choir for middle and high school.

“Our program has been very, very successful,” Wentzel concluded. “We want to keep it going. The kids benefit from it tremendously, and we want them to have as good a musical experience as possible.”

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