DRACUT — The sounds of Dracut High School’s string orchestra filled every corner of the room on a recent Tuesday morning with Robin Mallory at the helm.
“Here we go, ba-dam!” the orchestra director said as the student musicians performed a medley of songs featured in the Academy Award-winning film “La La Land.”
Over the next hour, Mallory would periodically pause the ninth- to 12th-grade students to give them instruction and perfect their collective sound.
Mallory’s leadership at Dracut High is just one facet of music education within Dracut Public Schools, which was recently named one of the Best Communities for Music Education from the NAMM Foundation. NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants. The signature program recognizes and celebrates school districts and schools for their support and commitment to music education and efforts to assure access to music for all students as part of a well-rounded education, according to the NAMM Foundation’s website.
Mallory said she was thrilled when she learned of the honor.
“I feel we are a good community, so it was wonderful to get the recognition. It was really nice,” she said. “I have the best of the crop. I have the best. I always say to everybody, ‘I have the best kids around.’ They’re awesome.”
According to Chalise Zolezzi, NAMM’s director of public relations and social media, Dracut participated in the self-submitted survey which covers hundreds of questions regarding the district’s music education programs. In an email Zolezzi said the survey administered by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas evaluates schools and districts “based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction.”
Coordinator of Performing Arts Carolyn Cardella submitted the survey on Dracut Public Schools’ behalf with the support of Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone. It is one of 14 communities in Massachusetts to be recognized. Other local districts that made the cut include Acton-Boxboro, Billerica, Chelmsford and Westford.
“I’m extremely proud of the staff and the students,” Cardella said recently. “I don’t feel that I can claim any credit for it because it’s the programs that they’ve had in place that they’ve been doing for many years now. I just helped them get recognized for it.”
Stone said the news validates what he’s known for a long time: that the teachers in Dracut Public Schools are “outstanding and they’re truly dedicated to the students.”
Aliyyah Catyb, a junior who plays the violin, said she wasn’t too surprised to learn about the district’s honor.
“I’ve known Ms. Mallory since I was 8 years old and she’s just been one of the best music teachers ever,” the 17-year-old said. “She really has a connection with each student and she’s able to make learning to play an instrument — which can be really difficult and frustrating — really fun for us.”
Sam Vitale, a 15-year-old sophomore who plays the viola, said it is well-deserved.
“All the music teachers work so hard to get us to be where we are today,” Sam said. “They’ve been working us since we were in third grade and it takes a lot because we didn’t know how to play the instrument back then. They’ve just trained us and taught us to be these great music players that we are today.”
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