HOLLIDAYSBURG- Teachers, students and community members in Hollidaysburg know the school district has a standout music program.
It's evident at concerts and performances, as well as through accolades received at local and state levels.
But now that the school district has received a "Best Community for Music Education" award from the NAMM Foundation, the whole country will know it, too.
Hollidaysburg Area School District’s 2012 PMEA All-State Students include (from left):?first row — Joana Li, Autumn Snowberger, Marielle Nackley, Emma Hammaker, Alex Drummond, Brandon Harris, Eli Wood and Jacob Frieko; On stairs — James Nackley, Michael Klingbeil, David Logue, Nathan Zeek, Caleb Gildea and Ben Black. Absent from the photo was Maggie Hoyne.
Members of HASD’s music faculty include (from left): first row — Jennifer Pappal, junior high orchestra and general music; Stephanie Everett, senior high orchestra and junior high general music; Lori Stephens, elementary general music and chorus; Wendy Jo Nagy, junior high and senior high choirs; Melissa Ott, elementary bands. Second row — Scott Sheehan, department chairman, senior high bands, and music theory; Mary Villani, elementary general music and chorus; Valerie Montgomery, elementary orchestras; Martha Miller, elementary general music and chorus; and Kris Laird, junior high bands and general music.
Hollidaysburg Area School District was one of 165 districts and 10 schools to receive the recognition. Scott Sheehan, music department chairman for the district, said this is the first time they have applied for an award like this, and they're happy to receive it.
"The award is really a testament to the community, because the traditions here and the support here have been long-standing," he said. "It's not something that I did or that any one music teacher here has done. It's tradition and all the years of musical excellence that have kind of driven us to the point where we applied for this recognition, and we're fortunate enough to receive that."
Sheehan said the NAMM Foundation looks at many factors, including student participation, community involvement and support, and sources of funding. He added that Hollidaysburg has an "active musical community," as well as ample financial support from administration, the school district foundation and HAMPA, the Hollidaysburg Area Music Parents Association.
"They do a really great supplemental job of providing all kinds of opportunities for the students that they wouldn't have on a regular basis without that," Sheehan said.
Another area the foundation looks at is the faculty. Sheehan said what makes the Hollidaysburg music faculty unique is that they are not only committed to the students, but that they work together as a team every day.
"The high school folks are coordinating with the junior high folks who are coordinating with the elementary folks," he said. "There's just this great continuity for the kids in our program as they go up through. ... The 10 of us work together, and it's a [kindergarten through 12th grade] effort to provide the best music education possible."
Wendy Jo Nagy, high school and junior high choral director, said the team effort is a big reason why the district was recognized, but the work on behalf of the students was also a huge determining factor, she added.
"We just have awesome students, that's the bottom line," Nagy said. "We just have kids who are dedicated and who love music."
Sheehan agreed, adding that he thinks a lot of the students also have the same pride in the program as the faculty.
"[They recognize] the sequential building of skills and knowledge and enthusiasm and excitement and love for music that starts in elementary school and works its way into the junior high and then culminates here in the senior high," he said.
For students like David Logue, a senior who has also made the all-state band for the last two years, having extraordinary teachers helped him with his transition from starting on piano to playing percussion, which he now plays in the band.
"A lot of people here made it really easy to understand percussion because, unlike what most people think, you don't just hit things," Logue, 18, of Hollidaysburg, said. "Just getting the right tones out of everything, the right dynamic levels, is something [Sheehan] has always talked about - making the most of music, not just playing the notes."
Logue said going to school in the Hollidaysburg Area School District helped him prepare for next year, when he will study composition at West Chester University and hopefully also pick up a degree in music education.
Nathan Zeek, a senior all-state band member on trombone, will be going to Penn State to study music education next fall. He said being in the music program in Hollidaysburg helped him realize the drive he had to turn music into a career, and the work it would take to succeed.
"It just became my passion, and I realized it's something that I had to have in my life, or else I wouldn't be happy," Zeek, 17, from Duncansville, said.
Brittany Lowey, a senior saxophone player who also does theater and choir, said she knows that not every school can provide the opportunities to participate in the many facets of the arts as Hollidaysburg does.
"I know we are fortunate to have the music program that we have," Lowey, 18, of Duncansville, said.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.