Seven Tarrant County-area school districts have been designated among the Best Communities for Music Education, a distinction that honors schools for “exceptionally high commitment and greater access to music education” for their students.The Fort Worth, Arlington, Denton, Northwest, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Grapevine-Colleyville and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw districts made the list.The announcement was made Wednesday by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, a 9,000-member organization that has been awarding the designation for 15 years.“These districts and schools set the bar in offering students access to comprehensive music education,” the group said in a news release.Of the nation’s more than 13,500 public school districts, 376 were recognized this year, including 25 in Texas. The state came in third for most honorees. Ninety-six school campuses were also honored nationwide for their music education.The foundation surveys school districts on funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs, Fort Worth school officials said. Responses are verified with school officials and reviewed by the University of Kansas Achievement and Assessment Institute.The Best Communities for Music Education designation can help music programs lobby for funding during budget-cutting times, justify adding programs and recruit students and parents into existing programs.“Our district and community have a rich tradition of nurturing musical talent,” said Fort Worth Superintendent Walter Dansby in a news release Wednesday. “This award is validation on which to build as we begin planning for the Fine Arts Academy approved by voters last fall.”Programs like Como Elementary School’s B Sharp Music Program helped the district of more than 80,000 students earn the designation. During the school day, music is integrated through the core academic curriculum and in specialized music instruction. The after-school enrichment program provides students with 10 hours of music each week and four hours of grade-level tutoring.The Eagle Mountain-Saginaw district is savoring its first time to be named a BCME district.“We’re really excited about that,” said Shawn Bell, director of fine arts for the 18,151-student district. “We have really solid numbers in our secondary band and choir programs, and at the elementary level all of our students take fine arts education.”In addition to regular vocal instruction, third- through fifth-graders at the elementaries in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw can try out and perform in honor choirs.Bell said community support for music education is high among school administrators and trustees as well as parents in the district, which is growing by about 400 students a year.“We look forward to expanding our current programs through more student participation,” Bell said. The Grapevine-Colleyville district won the BCME honor last year and has repeated for 2014.“It’s just a way to showcase the good work we’re already doing,” said Patrick Antinone, fine arts director for the 13,366-student district. “It’s like hanging a banner on our website: ‘This is a focus for us, a priority for us.’ ”Antinone, who directed the Grapevine High School choir for 11 years, was named to the newly created position of fine arts director for the district this year.“This position didn’t exist before, and that’s a part of the administration’s commitment to fine arts education,” he said.Students in Grapevine and Colleyville have access to general music instruction in kindergarten through fifth grade and band, choir and strings instruction from sixth through 12th grades.“We schedule, and fund, and do all the things we need to do so that anyone who wants to be a part of the program has access,” Antinone said.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657 Twitter: @shirljinkins