The NAMM Foundation kicked off the school year with a SupportMusic Community Forum at McKeesport Area High School located just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. McKeesport was once one of the largest towns in western Pennsylvania and was known for the steel mills that lined the river banks. That all changed in the 1980’s when the steel mills moved out and so did many of the workers living in McKeesport. However, one of the things that remained strong was the McKeesport Area School District and their music programs.
The McKeesport Area School District was named as a 2015 Best Community For Music Education by the NAMM Foundation and was chosen as one of six schools in the country to host a Community Forum and residency with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.
You can view the entire forum below.
The Community Forum was a chance to highlight some of the good things happening in McKeesport including student performances that included the Seventh and Eighth Grade Band, the High School Marching Band, the High School Womens Ensemble and the High School Orchestra. Getting students performing not only in their school but also out in the community is a key component to the success of the McKeesport programs. “We do our best to keep kids performing and enjoying music,“ noted Beth Eger, Music Coordinator/Choral Director in the McKeesport Area School District. And those performances come in a variety of ways. From the marching band performing in community events as well as competing state wide to elementary general music classes actively performing in their own classrooms each day, music educators in McKeesport understand the value of any opportunity for students to perform.
A key component to the success at McKeesport is the support of school administrators. Superintendent Rula Skezas is about as supportive of an administrator as you can find. From her time as a principal in the district to her current role as superintendent, Skezas has supported and encouraged participation in the music program including participation by her own children in the McKeesport music program. Skezas understands the bigger picture of participating in music education. “The intrinsic value of music for each individual is widely recognized in many cultures that make up American life. Indeed every human culture uses music to carry forward ideas and ideals,” remarked Skezas during her opening remarks.
“Skills learned through the power of music transfer to cognitive skills.” – Rula Skezas, Superintendent
Members of the Pennsylvania state legislature were also a part of the forum and discussed the situation McKeesport and all Pennsylvania school districts find themselves facing – no state budget which means no funds from the state to operate schools. The legislators applauded districts like McKeesport that have maintained strong music and arts programs even in the face of funding difficulties.
“We have to set the stage. There will be a year where we don’t have to fight for music education. It should be a given.” – State Senator Jim Brewster
Progressive Music’s Director of Market Development, Mark Despotakis hosted the forum and saw this as an opportunity to highlight a small slice of the good things happening in Western Pennsylvania. “I find myself continually amazed by what I hear in music classrooms all over the area,” noted Despotakis. “McKeesport is just one shining example of the good things students are doing in our schools.”
As part of the Community Forum, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus was at McKeesport Area High School for two days. The second day of the residency was the Community Forum, but the first day gave some McKeesport Area High School students the chance to work with Lennon Bus engineers to write, record and produce a music video.
“Recording on the Lennon Bus was an incredible experience. I was amazed. I never knew that much time was put into one song,” said Abbie Altieri, a 12th grade student, trumpet player and drum major at McKeesport Area High School, who was part of the music video made on the Lennon Bus.
You can view the video, “How You Really Groove,” the McKeesport students made below.
The McKeesport Area School District also received donated music products to use in their music programs district wide.
About Progressive Music
Progressive Music is a business with a mission to enrich the quality of life serving as a cultural and community center for all who make music for a living or personal enjoyment, regardless of age of ability. Progressive Music is the link between the public and suppliers of quality musical merchandise. The Progressive Music staff are professionals whose expertise assist, guide, and motivate people in the selection of music industry products as well present music education to the public through lessons, seminars and advocacy. Progressive Music is committed to their products with an experienced and knowledgeable service center. To learn more, visit www.progressivemusiccompany.com or visit Progressive Music on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
About The NAMM Foundation
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit organization funded in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its 9,900 members. The Foundation’s mission is to advance active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. For more information about the NAMM Foundation, please visit www.nammfoundation.org.
About The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus
The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a non-profit, state-of-the-art mobile Pro Audio and HD video recording facility that provides hands-on experiences for students of all ages. In its 17th year of touring, the Lennon Bus features the latest audio and video technology, gear and music products. The concept began as an offshoot of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which is dedicated to providing opportunities for both professional and amateur songwriters around the world. The Bus travels across the U.S. and Canada year-round, providing free tours and workshops at schools, retailers, festivals, on tours with headlining artists, and at major industry conferences. Lennon Bus Europe began providing these same opportunities to the young people of Europe when it launched in Liverpool, UK in May 2013. For more information please visit www.lennonbus.org.
The Bus is made possible by Yoko Ono Lennon and the following sponsors and contributors: Apple, Montblanc, Sony, Neutrik, Avid, Yamaha, Musician’s Friend, Gibson, Epiphone, NAMM, Adobe, OWC, Sonnet Technologies, True Religion, SESAC, Genelec, Vox, NewTek, TodoCast, LiveU, Mobile Roadie, Audio-Technica, DJI, Ableton, JamHub, Mackie, Ampeg, Digital Media Academy, UNESCO, Litepanels, Manfrotto, Clear-Com, Anton/Bauer, AJA, Solid State Logic, Digital Rapids, SKB, New Bay Media, Copperpeace, Apogee, Applied Acoustics Systems, McDSP, Native Instruments, IK Multimedia, Noise Industries, iZotope, JDI, Mad Mimi, and Boingo.