Seymour Community School Corp. has hit a high note this year by earning national recognition for music education.
The National Association for Music Merchants has selected the district to receive its Best Communities for Music Education Award in part for the opportunities students have to learn and perform music from elementary to high school.
Kyle Karum, director of choral music at Seymour High School, said the award is about recognizing student participation and hard work.
“We are thrilled to be recognized by this organization for all the hard work our students put into the musical arts,” Karum said. “Their focus, determination and skill sets have certainly paid off. This is a monumental win for the music programs here.”
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Other factors leading to Seymour receiving the award are the level of experience and involvement of its music teachers and the support the music department receives from the administration and community.
Karum announced the award at a school board meeting earlier this month.
The music department applied for the award in January. Karum said he had heard many top music programs had received the award in the past.
In the application, the department had to provide details about how many students participate in concerts, how many people attend the shows and even how many people the auditorium can seat.
“We plugged in all the information we had down to the exact number of how many people attended the musical last year,” Karum said. “It was a long process, and I know we were up against some tough competition, but I felt it important to at least try.”
A total of 583 school districts out of 13,600 entries nationwide were selected with 13 of them being in Indiana. Other Indiana schools to receive the award include West Lafayette, Avon, Carmel and Penn.
Senior Madi Brackemyre has been in choir at Seymour High School for three years. She is currently in Show Chorale, Chamber Choir and a small eight-person a cappella group called Groovy Shutters.
“I think our program stands out because the staff genuinely care about us,” she said. “Music is a story, and it would be hard to tell without them. Both the band and the choir numbers are growing greatly, and it wouldn’t keep getting bigger if the kids didn’t feel like they mattered. I honestly think the people make it great.”
Karum said the team that makes up the district’s music department is top-notch, and all of the “right people are in the right places.”
Besides Karum, there is assistant choir director Karla Shutters, band director Kevin Cottrill and assistant band directors Kyle Lutes and Debbie Carroll at Seymour High School. Seymour Middle School has choir director Keith Stam and band director Ellen Mirer, and the elementary schools have music teachers Allison Hein, Jennifer DeFriece and Kathy Porter.
“As a team, the music faculty continues to grow the quality and participation at our respective schools,” Karum said. “We love providing these opportunities for our students, as we know just how important regular and consistent exposure to music education is for a child’s cognitive development.”
Music education today isn’t just about teaching students to sing or play an instrument, Karum said.
“In the music classroom, we provide students with a unique, yet academic venture where they not only learn the lifelong skill of music-making, but they also utilize crucial 21st century skills that will prepare them for college and their careers,” he said.
Receiving such an honor says students are driven and skilled and have put a lot of work into making the program what it is, Karum said.
“I talk to my (students) all the time about how this is a singing skill and they can develop this,” he said. “You don’t have to be born singing like Adele or Ed Sheeran. You get what you put in.”
Senior Kelsey Baker has been an active choir student since the sixth grade and joined Seymour’s show choir her junior year. This year, she had a lead role in the spring musical production of “Into the Woods.”
“Seymour Community Schools’ music department is strong because our community is graciously accepting of the importance of music education,” she said. “Along with a supporting community, Seymour stands out with passionate music teachers that push students to success and continually remind us of the beauty music holds and how to utilize musical skills.”
Being named one of the best communities for music education doesn’t mean the program can’t and won’t get better, Karum said.
“As we move forward, we are excited to see the music resources and opportunities for all our students continue to grow and enhance,” he said. “I hope the community takes away from this that, ‘Wow! These kids are doing some really great stuff.'”
Senior Annika Minton has been involved in choir for all four years of her high school career and currently is in show choir.
“I think music is one of the biggest factors that continually brings this community together and that deserves to be recognized,” she said.
Being involved in the music program helps students become their best selves, said sophomore Morgan Sargent, who is a member of the high school band.
“Everyone is so supportive, and people are always willing to help you achieve your goals,” she said. “The instructors are what make it so amazing. They are always willing to help any way they can. It is so amazing being a part of that.”
Senior Jenna O’Neal said being a part of Seymour’s music program gives students confidence and support from teachers and other students who share a love of and passion for music.
“The teachers and the environment in the classrooms are incredible,” she said. “Every student gets included and is encouraged to step out of their shell.”
She gives credit to her elementary and middle school music teachers for preparing her for high school choir.
“It is a pleasure to know that I got to be a part of the best music education program in the country,” she said.