Torrington School Music Programs Recognized for 22nd Consecutive Year

TORRINGTON — The city’s school music programs are once again being recognized as among the Best Communities for Music Education — for the 22nd year.

the NAMM Foundationan arm of the National Association of Music Merchants, chose 738 school districts from 44 states for the designation, which is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement “in efforts to provide music access and education to all students,” according to its members in a statement.

This is certainly the case in Torrington, where students start learning the basics of music in kindergarten and, when they reach primary school, become part of a group of performers who can continue through high school. , if they wish.

Wayne Splettstoeszer, who led the music program at Torrington High School for 26 years, leads a team of educators throughout the school district. At THS, he works with choir director Connor Sullivan.

“We had an extra supportive administration, who really see the value of music education for our students,” Splettstoeszer said. “We just had our district band concert for grades 4-12, and 382 kids performed, from Forbes, Southwest, Torrington Middle School and Torrington High School. We have 217 children in the elementary school orchestra. It is a great accomplishment.

In the K-3 program, Nancy Ritter leads the music program at Torringford Elementary School and Tim Brandt leads the program at Vogel Wetmore. Ashlee Hyatt teaches music at Southwest; Michelle Castellano teaches music at Forbes; and Moll Brown leads the choir of these elementary schools.

At Torrington Middle School, Tia Ward conducts the orchestra and Andrew Skinner the orchestra. The director of the TMS group is Daniel Hodgkins.

“Our music programs are a major achievement,” Splettstoeszer said. “We have a sustained program with a lot of support not just from the schools, but from the community.”

Splettstoeszer said music teachers are a tight-knit group that work well together, which makes the programs they offer even more appealing to students. On top of that, Grants Writer and Community Outreach Coordinator Donna Labbe was successful in securing additional funding for music lessons and instruments for the programs.

“She did a tremendous job for us,” Splettstoeszer said.

He said they were also able to use ESSER funding — federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act for schools.

The pandemic has understandably halted music programs at every grade, but Splettstoeszer said the return to in-person classes, rehearsals and home practice has resumed, with many students happy to be reunited with their friends.

“We have our big pop concert on May 26, with chamber and concert choirs; we have the Memorial Day Parade coming up,” he said.

And the group will perform at the THS graduation ceremonies in June.

“The community, parents and other groups in the city also understand the value of our programs and want to be part of it, music,” he said.

According to NAMM, “Music education research continues to demonstrate the educational/cognitive and social benefits of children making music. In a series of landmark studies conducted by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University, a link was found between students in community music programs and lifelong academic achievement…in another study , the benefits of early exposure to music education have been found to improve how the brain processes and assimilates sound, a trait that lasts into adulthood.

School districts are invited to complete an annual survey reviewing their music programs, which is how they are chosen as recipients of the Best Communities for Music Education. The survey asks about staff, funding, classroom attendance, instruction time, facilities, community music-making programs, and whether the programs are well supported.

“We basically have to explain how we do it, and that’s quite complicated,” Splettstoeszer said. “We submit lesson plans. They want us to show how we integrate technology into our programs, for example. They want to know how we have continued to develop our programs.

Receiving recognition is always an honor, Splettstoeszer said.

“Of course to be nominated year after year like that is wonderful,” he said. “We’ve received this 22 times, more than any other school district in Connecticut.”

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