From A Community Founded on Steel Production to A Community Thriving on Music and Arts Education

In This Article:

The NAMM Foundation kicked off the school year with a SupportMusic Community Forum at McKeesport Area High School located just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  McKeesport was once one of the largest towns in western Pennsylvania and was known for the steel mills that lined the river banks.  That all changed in the 1980’s when the steel mills moved out and so did many of the workers living in McKeesport.  However, one of the things that remained strong was the McKeesport Area School District and their music programs.

The Community Forum was a chance to highlight some of the good things happening in McKeesport including four student performances that included the Seventh and Eighth Grade Band, the High School Marching Band, the High School Womens Ensemble and the High School Orchestra.  Getting students performing not only in their school but also out in the community is a key component to the success of the McKeesport programs.  “We do our best to keep kids performing and enjoying music, “ noted Beth Eger, Music Coordinator/Choral Director in the McKeesport Area School District.  And those performances come in a variety of ways.  From the marching band performing in community events as well as competing state wide to elementary general music classes actively performing in their own classrooms each day, music educators in McKeesport understand the value of any opportunity for students to perform.

A key component to the success at McKeesport is the support of school administrators.  Superintendent Rula Skezas is about as supportive of an administrator as you can find.  From her time as a principal in the district to her current role as superintendent, Skezas has supported and encouraged participation in the music program including participation by her own children in the McKeesport music program.  Skezas understands the bigger picture of participating in music education.  “The intrinsic value of music for each individual is widely recognized in many cultures that make up American life. Indeed every human culture uses music to carry forward ideas and ideals,” remarked Skezas during her opening remarks.

Members of the Pennsylvania state legislature were also a part of the forum and discussed the situation McKeesport and all Pennsylvania school districts find themselves facing – no state budget which means no funds from the state to operate schools. The legislators applauded districts like McKeesport that have maintained strong music and arts programs even in the face of funding difficulties.

Article written by Mark Despotakis, Director of Market Development,at Progressive Music located just outside of Pittsburgh, PA

McKeesport High School students from McKeesport, PA wrote, recorded and produced an original song and music video on board the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus in one single day during the NAMM Foundation’s Best Communities Tour. Special thanks to Canon, Juniper Networks, Securematics, Audio-Technica, Epiphone, Genelec, Mackie, Neutrik, Other World Computing (OWC), Yamaha and ZVEX Effects. View here.