Russell Schools Achieve Music Award

Kathy Clayton

The Ashland Beacon


   Towns within the Russell Independent School District and the district itself have been recognized for their support of music education by the National Associate of Music Merchants Foundation. The foundation selected Russell as a 2019 Best Communities for Music Education, one of only four school districts selected from Kentucky.

​   “My friend, Ruth Tompkins, learned of the program, and she did all the work with the application,” said Theresa Russell, a music teacher in the Russell district. Tompkins is a local piano teacher who often comes into the schools to help support the music programs. “While the school district is named in the award, it actually recognizes continuing support from the community.”

​   “I’m a member of Music Teachers International,” said Tompkins, “and I became aware of it through them. I heard about it in October and the form had to be turned in in January. It was quite an extensive process – the application was 110 pages. Some of it was just check the box, but some required length responses, written essay-type questions.” She said she was able to get some information from the superintendent’s office, as well as individual teachers.

​   Tompkins and Russell both praised the school district for its continuing support of arts programs. She said that even as “funding is dwindling, the school system continues to support music programs.”

   Russell added, “They want to make sure students have a well-rounded education.” She said that in recent years, the school system has added a band director, and music teachers at the middle school, among other arts-related initiatives. “We have a full-time music educator for each building in the district, plus an itinerant teacher who does half-day programs at the different schools.” Music is a required curriculum item for grades K-5.She estimates that around 800 students in the Russell school district participate in music education.

   ​In selecting recipients of the best communities award, Tompkins said “They factor in how much outside (the school system) support is available – other music teachers available in the community, how many concerts are presented, as well as how many students are enrolled in music programs.” Russell noted the foundation wanted to see if students had the opportunity to further their interest in music outside the school setting.

   ​Russell, who teaches in the choral department, said the school systems provides the options of chorus, marching band, orchestra, theater, jazz band, senior ensembles, and others. “Many music students take lessons outside the school – at Morehead, Marshall, the Paramount, the Inspire Conservatory. These opportunities in the community just strengthen our programs at school. We have very strong arts support throughout this area.”

   ​“And we have music teaches like Ruth, who come in and help support music education, and help us thrive.”

   Russell said both the middle school and high school sent students to participate in the KMEA (Kentucky Music Educators Association) All-State Choirs and RHS sent students to participate in All State Band Ensembles in 2019. RHS and RMS Band and RHS Girls Chorale have earned Distinguished ratings at 2019 District KMEA Assessment Festival. RMS and RHS Orchestra will be participating in KMEA Assessment Festival for Orchestra next week. The high school Girls Chorale earned a Distinguished rating at the 2019 State KMEA Choral Assessment.

​   The NAMM Foundation web site said the organization recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education.  Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.