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Community Music School of Springfield, public schools honored by Yale

symposium-jaron-wittenbergMassLive | By Cori Urban | Special to The Republican

Only in its second year, Sonido Musica hit a sweet note as it was honored by Yale University.

A Yale Distinguished Music Education Partnership Award – one of 38 given nationally – was given to The Community Music School of Springfield and the Springfield Public Schools for their Sonido Musica program.

Sonido Musica serves Springfield public middle schools, providing students with free lessons. The first year only string instruments were offered, and the second year teachers introduced band instruments so students could choose strings or band instruments.

"The key to the partnerships with Sonido Musica is that each school principal chooses the composition of the eligible students on whatever criteria suits the goals of each school," said Eileen M. McCaffery, executive director of Community Music School of Springfield and co-recipient of a Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award. "In most cases the number of students wanting to participate exceeds the number of slots provided, so the principals and school administrators select the students. In most cases students have had no prior musical training and represent the broad demographic of the school as a whole."

The program places no prerequisite instruction on any of the students.
np 20 mickens 1 SPS Fine Arts Director Julie Jaron.

"The purpose of Sonido Musica is to provide an effective way of enhancing and/or establishing strong and sustainable instrumental music programs in the Springfield Public Schools," said Julie A. Jaron, director of visual and performing arts for Springfield Public Schools and co-recipient of the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award. "Over the years, many SPS middle schools had lost their band programs. Recognizing the need to provide a feeder-system to the already well-established and growing high school instrumental programs, it was evident that middle school instrumental music programming was the hinge pin that would provide the vital connection between elementary and high school music programs."

The way that she, McCaffery and school principals have chosen to do this work is through collaboration, with the goal of building middle school instrumental music programs back into the schools' program offerings.

McCaffery and Jaron have been researching successful student leadership models such as Sci-Tech band's Mentoring Through Music program and planned to grow this important component of the Sonido Musica program as well.
Our students deserve the very best we can give them.

In the first year of Sonido Musica, music school staff taught strings to students at three schools – Forest Park Middle School, Alfred G. Zanetti Montessori Magnet School and STEM Middle Academy.

The result was better attendance and students more engaged in learning.
"They are invested and they are extraordinary," McCaffery said.

But improved attendance was not the most outstanding data, Jaron pointed out. "What did show significant positive impact were behavioral outcomes such as the reduction of out-of-school suspensions and disciplinary incidents. This was an outcome that we expected, but it was good validation when the numbers that came in supported our thinking."


[Yale alumnus] Steve Wittenberg, chairman of Yale's Music in Schools Committee, lauded Springfield's efforts and stressed Yale's commitment to the arts.

"Public school music education is understaffed, underfunded and under appreciated," said Wittenberg, adding Yale will promote programs like Sonido Music "until people wake up and realize the importance of music education."