Guilderland music program receives accolades

High school selected as Grammy Signature Schools semi-finalist

— Winning a Grammy is a dream many musicians hope to achieve, but high school music program directors look to receive their own sort of Grammy award.

Guilderland Central School District announced its high school was selected as a 2014 Grammy Signature Schools semi-finalist on Friday, Dec. 6. The Grammy Signature Schools program recognizes public high schools making an “outstanding commitment” to music education.

The selection process began in August, with the district submitting information about its music program. As a semi-finalist, the school will submit additional information, such as recordings of school concerts, sample concert programs and repertoire.

The Grammy Foundation’s Grammy Signature Schools program recognizes public high schools across the United States that are “providing excellent music education programs for their students,” Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation, said in a statement. “Many of these schools face serious economic challenges, so it’s truly inspiring to see this level of commitment to arts education and to the students who benefit from this type of curriculum.”

Lori Hershenhart, instructional administrator for music at the district, said Guilderland High School has participated in the program for around the last five years and has reached the semi-finalist designation before.

“I am always pleased when the district receives the recognition I feel it deserves for an outstanding program,” Hershenhart said. “It is, for sure, a recognition of the wonderful program we have in Guilderland and the support we enjoy from the community.”

Hershenhart said she is hoping the school will be selected as a Grammy Signature School for the first time. Students performed some “very difficult” pieces last year, she said.

An independent committee of “top music educators and professionals” will determine what schools will merit the Signature School honor.

Finalists will be announced in March, and selected schools will receive a custom award and a monetary grant ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 to benefit its music program. There were 123 schools selected nationwide as semi-finalists, with application information sent to more than 200,000 schools. Winning schools also receive visits from Grammy Award-winning artists.

Hershenhart said receiving the recognition highlights the importance of the school’s music program, which is helpful during “difficult budget times.” She said all students deserve a comprehensive music education.

“Music teaches the skills essential for success in life such as critical thinking, discipline, perseverance, teamwork and plays an essential role in the development of social skills and emotional awareness in students,” Hershenhart said. “Recent research confirms that music is a complex cognitive process which dramatically shapes a child’s brain by creating extra connections between the auditory, visual and motor regions.”

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