For the third year in a row, the Bordentown Regional School District (BRSD) has been recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation as one of the Best Communities for Music Education.
To earn the honor of being the Best Communities for Music Education, BRSD had to meet the criteria of questions that involve funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs throughout the entire school district from grades K-12.
All applicants for the award were judged and verified by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.
The distinguished honor is something Bordentown Regional High School Director of Bands Michael Montalto has entered the school district in for the last three years, and he said he is extremely proud of BRSD for receiving the recognition each time.
“It’s a collective effort of music education being taught throughout our entire school district and the community,” Montalto said about receiving the honor. “This is the third time we’ve achieved this. It’s a great look for our entire music department in the school district.”
Montalto has been at the forefront of building up the music department throughout BRSD since he came into the district 11 years ago.
When Montalto started teaching in the district, he was the band director for grades 4-12 and there was no band director or program at the elementary school level.
Along with Montalto, when he started, was Robert Vieira, who ran the string orchestra program from the upper elementary school level up through the high school ranks.
As Montalto began instituting his own music philosophies into the band program in Bordentown, he said it became apparent to him that he needed to grow the program more in numbers.
Every fall, Montalto, along with Vieira on the orchestra side, would work hard to recruit more students to come join the music program.
It has worked with Montalto’s band numbers growing from less than 20 students when he started to over 60 students now.
“We really built it from the ground up,” Montalto said. “I’m a strong advocate to have music taught at all grade levels and for kids to get involved with music. It took us a good six to seven years to build the numbers to where they are now.”
As the music program began to grow in the school district, Montalto and Vieira were given the opportunity by the administration to bring in more teachers into the music department at all levels in the school district.
Both teachers were a part of the Music Education Committee designed by the school district to hire more educators to provide musical instruction and education for students.
“We had great support from our administration to help us grow the music community,” Montalto said. “All the support we have gotten from the school district and the community has been great.”
Over the past few years, BRSD has seen many great achievements from its music program at the high school level.
The Bordentown Regional High School marching band placed third at the USBands Class A National Championships in 2019. During the event, the Marching Scotties placed first in the Music Caption category.
In spring of 2019, Montalto and the high school’s jazz band headed to Boston to compete in the Berklee School of Music Jazz Festival. The festival featured over 150 high school bands from 15 different states across the country. Each band was separated into six different categories based on the size of the school.
Bordentown placed second out of the 16 schools that competed in its category.
All these accomplishments have been “very satisfying” for Montalto. That said, Montalto holds the school district receiving the recognition of being one of the Best Communities for Music Education higher on his list, saying it shows how much music in all forms has become a big part of the Bordentown community.
“The awards part is cool, but it’s more satisfying to see the culture and numbers of our music department grow like they have and receive awards for that,” he said. “It means a lot because I’ve seen it grow from the ground up.”
Montalto and the Bordentown Regional High School Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band will hold their annual Spring Concert on May 12.