Herricks on the road to national music recognition

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The Herricks school district’s music program has taken its students on a road trip to national recognition.

Herricks was one of three school districts in the U.S. to win a two-day residency on the NAMM Foundation’s John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, the foundation announced last week.

The annual contest was not a shot at glory, but a chance to share the dedication, collaboration and passion that makes the district’s music program outstanding, said Anissa Arnold, Herricks’ director of music and performing arts.

Now it has been added to the list of unique opportunities Herricks schools aim to offer its music students, Arnold said.

“We do great things in this school, this school district, and we wanted to share the passion that we all have for music here at Herricks,” she said.

As winners of the John Lennon Bus Recording Residency, next fall a group of eight to 10 students from Herricks will compose, record and produce an original song and music video aboard the bus, which is outfitted with professional recording and production equipment.

The following day, the NAMM Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the National Association of Music Merchants, will sponsor a “SupportMusic Community Forum” to encourage support of music education and note Herricks’ musical accomplishments, according to a news release from the foundation.

The other residency winners are Scotts Valley High School in Scotts Valley, California, and Country Club Hills District 160 in Country Club Hills, Illinois.

The winners were selected from among schools that submitted one-minute videos answering the question, “What makes education great in my school district?”

A Herricks High School senior, Jonathan Sanelli, who has played double bass and guitar since the third grade, produced Herricks’ video. Samelli also has an interest in filmmaking and said he plans to pursue it in college.

Sanelli said he put the question to Herricks music teachers and students to make the video.

Many spoke about students’, teachers’ and parents’ overall dedication to music, but one standout answer was teacher James Ludwig’s response that the district’s embrace of its cultural diversity contributes to the strength of the music program, Sanelli said.

“I think there’s an appreciation for the many diverse places that everyone in the school district comes from and we get to explore that through music,” Ludwig said in the video.

Herricks invests heavily in music. The district has 23 music teachers in its five buildings and requires music classes through eighth grade. Students start playing instruments in third grade and the majority continue through high school, Arnold said.

About 900 elementary school students play music, and Herricks’ middle and high schools have a combined 1,245 students in performing ensembles, Arnold said. Together those students account for more than half the district’s total enrollment.

Herricks is one of the North Shore’s most ethnically diverse districts, with a student population that’s 59 percent Asian, 33 percent white and 8 percent other races, according to data from the state Education Department.

Arnold said she is unsure what specific connection there is between diversity and strong music programs, but she knows support for the arts is part of the “value system” of the district’s families, she said.

“It’s something that everybody is in for and wants to make the best out of it,” Sanelli said.

Herricks High School’s music ensembles are as good as most college orchestras or better, so its music program prepares students well for conservatories and other further music study, Arnold said.

Aside from musical aptitude, music classes help build discipline and emphasize teamwork, skills that help students in all their courses, she said.

“It helps develop the whole child, the whole person, and it’s something that they can take with them for the rest of their lives,” Arnold said.

By Noah Manskar

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