On the chart: Music program makes survey’s top 100 list

In the Central Kitsap School District, music education is a hand-clapping good time and a recent survey recognizes that. The district was recently named one of the “Best 100 Communities for Music Education in America” on a Web-based survey.

The survey was conducted by a number of organizations, including the American Music Conference. The three-month-long survey asked administrators and teachers alike from all 50 states questions about music education funding, instruction time and music facilities. The results of the survey were released early this month. The list is alphabetical, so the CKSD does not have an actual ranking.

This is the sixth year of the survey, which can be found at

For the music teachers in the district, the recognition really isn’t a surprise.

Suzanne Burton, the elementary music specialist at Esquire Hills Elementary, said the program works because it starts early and there are so many different aspects to it. Students start learning music in the first grade.

Burton said the cognitive abilities used in music education help students in other topics and sometimes there is a lesson hidden in music. Just recently, the fourth-graders at Esquire Hills performed a musical about the Lewis and Clark expedition and she said those students will likely remember the lessons in the songs for years to come.

But not all lyrical rhymes have to have a reason, she said.

“It’s also important to teach music for music’s sake so kids can have an aesthetic education,” Burton said.

Sheri Shipe, the elementary music specialist at Clear Creek Elementary, said she is glad that, even through harsh budget years, the district continues to make music education a priority.

“I think CKSD as a whole is very supportive of the music program,” she said. “We have a strong musical offering and the program in the district has stayed stable while other districts haven’t remained as stable because of finances.”

Tom McVicker, who serves as one of the district’s music coordinators and teaches choir at Olympic High, said the music program is unique because it has so much support.

“First of all, we are blessed to have a great music staff in the district and also within that staff some very energetic teachers who motivate and inspire kids,” he said.

At one point a few years ago, the district was considering making cuts to the music program but the parents and students showed up in force, McVicker said.

Music is important in schools because it gives children an outlet to be creative, he said. To feed that creativity, there are numerous music offerings at all grade levels beginning with the first grade. As the students get older, there are more music choices.

In the fifth grade, students can choose to take band and, in some schools, orchestra. In the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, students can participate in choir either before or after school.

There also are some non-performance classes offered, such as music theory.

Allan Villiers, also a district music coordinator, agreed that teaching music makes children well-rounded.

“Music is just such a cool thing to deal with the creative side of a person,” said Villiers, who teaches band at Fairview Junior High. “It’s a communication thing happening between you and the students.”

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