Jamestown High School Music Brings Benefits To Students

Jamestown High School’s A Cappella Choir sang ”The Star Spangled Banner” during a recent practice rehearsal. Submitted photo

“JHS students are so lucky to have all of the musical opportunities that they do,” said JHS senior, Amelia Dolce, who participates in the Orchestra, Concert Band, A Cappella Choir and Madrigal Singers. “It is an outlet during the day for us to express ourselves, just like an elementary school kid who says his or her favorite class is gym, our favorite time of the day is music. You also get an opportunity to experience all types of music genres from pop to classical to marches to secular. I want to major in music therapy in college and music at JHS has helped me find my way.”

Amelia is one among the hundreds of JPS students who benefit from having a well-rounded music program in the district. The benefits of music to a child’s education are well-documented. According to the National Association for Music Education, musical training helps in developing language, reasoning and mastering memorization, promotes pride in craftsmanship and achievement, increases engagement and success in school, and offers ways for students to relax, learn about teamwork, responsible risk-taking and healthy social-emotional development. Goal 2 of the JPS Strategic Plan specifically states our commitment to creating an engaging and nurturing school environment, in and outside the classroom, rich with opportunities that develop the whole child by offering a wide variety of interactive opportunities and co-curricular activities. Music fits that bill for many students.

“Music is just enjoyable and the reason behind that is it brings me happiness and joy,” said JHS Junior Andrew Roof, who is in A Cappella Choir, Concert Band, Madrigal Singers and the School Musical. “It also teaches you discipline – in music everything has to be expressive and also helps with focus – you must really focus when you play an instrument or sing a song and learning to focus really transfers to your other classes.”

Music also fosters higher expectations in students.

“If you are expected to perform at a high standard, you’ll achieve, whether that is in music or academics,” said JHS Senior Matt Leon who is in A Cappella Choir, Marching Band, Concert Band and Madrigal Singers. “You start to expect higher standards from yourself. My favorite saying is, ‘Character is what you are when no one else is watching’ and music helps build character.”

Concert Band trombone players, Mackenzie Abbey, Ben Russo, Christian Dolce, Christina McMillan and Sarah Pillittieri warm-up during a recent rehearsal.

Research Shows Music Enhances Students’ Lives

According to the Arts Education Partnership, music increases students’ average SAT scores. An analysis of 10 years of SAT data revealed that students who took four years of arts courses in high school earned the highest scores on both the verbal and math SAT, but overall, students taking any arts courses scored significantly higher than students who took no arts courses (Vaughn et al., 2000). Of these students, those who took music courses earned the highest math and second highest verbal SAT scores (College Board, 2010). Students who study music also outperform their non-music peers in assessments of math, and the advantage that music provides increases over time. These findings hold true regardless of socio-economic status and race or ethnicity (Baker, 2011; Catterall, 1998). Additionally, students involved in instrumental music do better in algebra, a gateway for later achievement (Helmrich, 2010; U.S. National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008).

“Music enhances your academics as well; it uses a lot of math and mental approaches but it’s a different way of learning, which suits some kids better,” said JHS Senior Matthew Myers, who is in String Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, A Cappella Choir and the School Musical. “You also learn from each other in music. I have always played the piano but had never accompanied a choir like A Cappella before, so I had to learn how to work with a bigger group.”

JHS students in particular benefit from numerous ensembles and classes to flex their creative muscles. All choral and instrumental ensembles meet daily at each appropriate rehearsal site. Sectional rehearsals are provided for students on a rotating basis during one period per week throughout the year. JHS has approximately 290 students involved in its music ensembles. All students who participate in ensembles receive academic credit for each year the student participates.

“Sometimes it is a misconception that music might take away from your academics but it is the complete opposite,” said JHS Senior Emily Anderson who participates in Concert Band, A Cappella Choir, Madrigal Singers and the School Musical. “It is such a relaxing activity that it helps you when you go back to your academics to stay in the zone.”

Jamestown High School cellists, Mei Maxwell, Kailey Marra, Kameron Rhoades, Jena Luce, Hannah Hornyak and Amelia Dolce during a recent rehearsal.

Emily’s fellow musicians agree.

“Music actually leaves you with fewer choices, in that you have to be at practice at a specific time and it forces you to time manage your homework and practice,” said JHS Senior Lucas Lassinger, who participates in Marching Band, Concert Band, A Cappella Choir, Concert Orchestra, Pit Orchestra and Madrigal Singers. “You can’t call off practice. In order to get better you must put in the time so you will perform well both in music and in academics.”

JHS Ensembles

JHS has a long-standing tradition with its choral program. The JHS A Cappella Choir is the most select group among all choral experiences. Membership is based upon acceptance through a successful audition for the director. As members of the A Cappella Choir, students participate in additional choral groups, including Madrigal Singers, Men of Tomorrow and Ladies of Today. The A Cappella Choir gives over twenty performances each December, and marked its 92nd Annual A Cappella Vespers performance in 2016. The A Cappella choir has traveled extensively throughout its history, including a recent tour of Washington DC where the choir performed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Arlington National Cemetery, Holocaust Museum, and several National Monuments.

The JHS Mixed Chorus, composed of students from grades 9-12, is the feeder group for the A Cappella Choir and is open to anyone desiring to participate in a high school choral ensemble. Membership enables students to receive a musical experience and develop basic techniques in vocal music, while singing in a variety of styles and languages.

“Music for me is a form of expression and it’s hard to express emotions without it. Music is a way to tell stories and thoughts,” said JHS Senior Cameron Lydell, who participates in A Cappella Choir, Concert Band, Madrigal Singers and the School Musical. “Music programs help kids grow and teach maturity. There are so many experiences you wouldn’t normally have, like the first time at the Dome for Marching Band Championships or your first A Cappella Vespers with that rush of adrenaline you get from performing and doing well.”

Symphonic Band includes students from 9th to 12th grades. The band learns to perform and appreciate varied selections from the appropriate literature. Acceptance into the ensemble is based upon successful completion of eighth grade band and director recommendation. Concert Band is the most select instrumental ensemble at JHS. Students will learn to perform and appreciate varied selections from the finest available literature. Acceptance into the ensemble is based upon a successful audition for the director. The Concert Band has also received awards, such as Gold with Distinction ratings at NYSSMA Large Ensemble Festivals.

The JHS Red Raider Marching Band has four state championships to its credit (1991, 2002, 2014, 2015) and is a source of pride in our community. The band has had opportunities to perform across the country, further promoting and enhancing the JPS music program’s reputation, and will be headed to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago on March 11.

“The work ethic behind all music is excellence — we are held to a higher standard than other students,” said JHS Senior Maya Larson who is in A Cappella Choir, Concert Band Marching Band and Pit Orchestra. “I do AP classes so practicing music helps us in school and ultimately in our jobs because we have to learn really good time management and work ethic skills to succeed. Also, we are often in leadership positions, especially in marching band, and looked up to as role model. All of this makes us better and more successful.”

There are currently 50 String Orchestra students at JHS, which is the biggest the string ensemble has been in 13 years. There are 67 students in the Concert Orchestra. String Orchestra is for all orchestral string players with previous experience from a middle school string program. Students will learn to perform and appreciate varied selections from appropriate literature and will rehearse once a day during the school day. Concert Orchestra is for all orchestral string players and select wind and percussion players from the Concert and Symphonic Bands. The band and orchestra directors base membership solely on recommendation and typically rehearse only once a week after school. The orchestra has taken trips to Virginia Beach, Cleveland and Disney World and performs four concerts throughout the school year along with select string students participating in the Western New York Chamber Orchestra Side-by-Side concert.

In addition to the music ensembles, students also have the opportunity to participate in the school musical each year. This year’s musical, “Seussical,” directed by Lauren Scharf, will be held on March 30 at 7 p.m., March 31 at 7 p.m. and April 1 at 2 and 7 p.m. The musical gives students many opportunities from vocals to Pit Orchestra to use their musical skills to perform for the community.

“I met all my friends through music programs,” said JHS Junior Alivia Roehrig, who is in Orchestra, A Cappella Choir and Madrigal Singers. “I learned that even a small part of the group doing something leads to something bigger. I might play the viola part and think this doesn’t make sense or sound great but then I hear it as part of the whole orchestra and realize everyone’s part in the group is important — you are all needed to make the music whole — an important life lesson to learn.”