Belmont Honored As a ‘Best Community for Music Education’ in US

Photo: Performers at the “Bandarama” concert in December 2014.

Belmont is known as the “Town of Homes.” It should also be called a community of music.

For what has been an annual event for the past decade, Belmont has been named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” in the US by the NAMM Foundation.

Communities are selected for this honor based on the level of comprehensive music education offered to students at all grade levels, the willingness of the school district devote instructional time and resources to music education, and the community’s commitment to providing their children with a well-rounded educational experience the schools.

Belmont is just one of 388 school districts nationwide and one of 14 in Massachusetts to earn this distinction.

“To me, this says as much about our community as it does about our music program,” Arto Asadoorian, Belmont School’s director of Fine & Performing Arts, told the Belmontonian.

“When communities support music, art and theater programs in their schools, it says a lot about their values and the kinds of experiences they provide for their children. This is the reason why I felt so fortunate for the opportunity to come to work here in 2006, and it’s why my wife and I chose to move to Belmont and raise our children here,” he said.

Asadoorian said the award also recognizes “the outstanding work of the teachers in our music department.”

“They are among the most dedicated and accomplished music educators in the state, and they deserve a great deal of recognition for helping Belmont earn its distinction,” he said.

Those teachers are:

  • Kate Hayashi (Winn Brook, PreK-4 Music)
  • Vicki Livermore (Burbank, K-4 Music)
  • Craig McMahan (Wellington, K-4 Music)
  • Rosanne Mili (Butler, K-4 Music)
  • Laura Messina (Elementary Strings)
  • Morgan Scagliotti-Driban (Elementary Strings)
  • Nate Haywood (CMS Music)
  • John McLellan (CMS Band, Elementary Instrumental Music)
  • Christine Moser (CMS Chorus Director)
  • Sharon Phipps (CMS Band, Elementary Instrumental Music)
  • Paul Ketchen (BHS Band, Elementary Instrumental Music)
  • Sean Landers (BHS Chorus Director)
  • Margot Reavey (BHS & CMS Orchestra Director)

In what has been a difficult budget year, it is important and encouraging to remember that Belmont is a community that has always valued music and art education as an important component of our core curriculum, said Asadoorian.

“As much as this is an award for excellence in music education, it is also recognition of a community that provides a wide range of high-quality educational experiences and makes them available to all students. It is a distinction that should serve as a source of pride for our entire school district and for our community,” he said.

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  1. Dr. Rob eardsworth says

    Not surprising. Belmont Middle and High School marching and concert bands were constantly taking first prize in the state throughout the late 70s when I was there. Much thanks to great Belmont Music teachers and conductors extraordinaire Ms. Houk (Winn Brook), Mr. Tom O’Halloran, and Dr. Jon Nicholson (Middle and High School Bands). Keep up the great job, Belmont!

  2. Amy Joy Cross (Stalcup) says

    I am so happy to hear this! Congratulations to Belmont schools and the Belmont Music department. How wonderful that the program is still going strong!
    I went on to study vocal performance and music education. I couldn’t
    live a day without music! Music and singing have become my life’s work and passion. A special thank you to Shirley Laman for helping me find my voice. Thank you to Joe Cabral for taking a chance on me. And finally, thank you to Dr. Bill McManus for giving me my first music teaching gig! I also loved my student teaching experience with Helene Tassone and John Frantzen. What an amazingly talented and humble group of individuals!
    I feel so blessed by all of my experiences in the Belmont schools.
    The Belmont schools provided a safe, creative, yet challenging place where many of us could develop more deeply the creative person we knew was inside of us already.
    I am just thrilled to hear that the students there are still striving and being encouraged to strive for musical greatness! It just warms my heart!
    Sing and play on……

  3. Eric Mattison says

    “One of”? Whatchoo mean “one of” Willis? When I last talked to Mr. McLellan (I still can’t think of him as John) he mentioned that they’ve long since run out of room for all of the trophies Belmont bands have won.

    It was kind of an unwritten rule that the “good kids” played music in Belmont (this didn’t preclude sports, of course), and it always seemed that a large portion of those students went to top colleges. Coincidence?

  4. Matthew Hilgenberg says

    As a graduate of BHS (1993) I went on to major in music at the college and graduate level at NYU. As a professional trumpet player I recorded with many luminaries, toured the world with many acts, and still play on Broadway, in New York jazz clubs, churches, weddings, and anywhere else I can.

    I owe so much to the men from the Belmont schools who helped shape my musicality, but also my discipline and humanity. Those men were Fred Harris, John McLellan (who I am amazed is still doing it!) and Bill MacManus. We are so fortunate to have such a wealth of arts programs in Belmont, and the fact that it has continued all these years is a testament to the community.

    I can name half a dozen men and women from my graduating high school class alone who are currently making their living from playing and teaching music, and that is nothing short of amazing. Bravo, Belmont!

    Matt Hilgenberg

  5. Andrea says

    Although Belmont’s music and language programs rank very high, not all kids benefit from either. My kids play piano and guitar and speak Italian. We paid for private lessons for all of it because those instruments and Italian were not taught in the school system when my sons attended the Belmont Public Schools.

    • Arto Asadoorian says

      Hi Andrea,

      You raise a great point, there are many skilled musicians who don’t “fit” into our typical performance ensembles (band, chorus, orchestra). Piano and guitar are two great examples. We do the best we can to offer opportunities for those students to perform in co-curricular groups like the Jazz Ensemble, but we obviously can’t accommodate everyone. This is something we are definitely aware of, and would love the opportunity to reach more students and provide them opportunities in music.

      Thanks for pointing this out, and I hope your kids are still making music somewhere.

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