Evergreen Park High School receives national honor for music program

Evergreen Park High School received the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, a gesture the school says reiterates the importance of music education in its classroom.

The designation went to 975 school districts around the country and 32 districts in Illinois, the public relations officer for the district explained. This is the first time Evergreen Park District 231 has received the honor.

“Music education provides an opportunity for every student to not only express themselves with the universal language of music, but to appreciate the many different aspects of life by affecting their audience, society, and themselves,” said Ken Kazin, band director, in a written statement.

Qualification for the award required the district to answer a series of detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music making programs, according to the district.

The answers were reviewed by staff at the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, which assisted the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation in the decision making process.

The National Association of Music Merchants runs an annual music industry trade show and judges a series of awards including the recognition recently received by District 231.

There are many benefits to increasing musical literacy in schools, the district said in an email message touting the award. Students who take music classes show improvements in how their brains process speech and reading. High school graduation and college attendance is also more likely among students who take music courses in comparison to students who skip music, the district wrote.

“Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers,” the statement continued. “Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.”

The district and the foundation did not respond to requests for comment.

For 25 years, this award has been given out to districts around the country. It recognizes the efforts of teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders.

“Music education plays an integral role in every student’s overall learning and development and helps them build connections through musical activities,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the foundation, in a statement.

District 231 is the only district of the 32 in Illinois’ south suburbs to get the award. Schools in other suburbs receiving the honor include Center Cass Elementary District 66 in Downers Grove and two districts in Glen Ellyn.