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August 30, 2014
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Eldred’s music program feted

Brian Nivison, Eldred School District's Music Director and band teacher, joins in with a saxophone with two of his students. On theleft is Claire York playing base clarinet, to which she's just transitioned; next to her is Brianna Terry, playing the clarinet.
TRR photos by Anya Tikka

ELDRED, NY — Eldred Central School District has been nominated by two national organizations as being among the best schools in America for music education. The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) selected the school for their award; and Grammy Signature Schools awarded Eldred a semifinalist place in its annual list for the second year running, making it one of 123 of the about 20,000 surveyed.

The district has only three music teachers: the music director Brian Nivison, voice and drama teacher Justin A. Glodich, and George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School music teacher Brittany Robinson. All are playing their part in making the music program a success, by going above and beyond, and being committed to staying in the community, said Superintendent Robert Dufour. He also mentioned the support from the community in general, for the music program is considered very important.

Nivison, who has been at Eldred for eight years, agreed. “I think it is because we have goals, and a lot has to do with commitment to be here, staying the course over the long haul. I’ve read it takes 10 to 15 years to build a good music program. Eight years really isn’t a lot of time to continue to exceed expectations.” He praised Eldred’s community and parents as well for supporting the students and the music program by always coming to the concerts and backing their children.

“We submitted a survey,” Nivison explained about the process, which is the same for both nominations. “We had Superintendent Dufour help us with the statistics about the school: the budgets that we have in the district, the facilities we have, the amount of time that we have for music instruction. We factor all those elements in for a district of our size, and we’re doing a lot with only three of us teachers. All those factors allow us to get that recognition.”

An extra requirement for the Grammy Signature School nomination final was to submit a recording, something Nivison feels is not well organized in Eldred— yet—but they are working on it. The finalists will be announced in mid-March, and they will receive a custom award and a monetary grant ranging from $1,000 up to $15,000 to benefit their music program.

The NAMM Foundation is in its 15th year of surveying schools and districts across the country. Eldred School District was among the 307 that received the nomination. “It’s nice because we’re not a large fish, to be able to be in that list with very large schools. How we’re using the resources that we have is the deciding factor, maximizing the use of those resources,” Nivison continued.

“Commitment is so rare in our society. You have to be dedicated, to have commitment. I’ve taken my students to the New York State School Music Association evaluation every year, although it’s such a small pool to draw from. We’re not going to have the level six that the large schools have, but we’re going to do as much as we can,” he said.

New York has six levels of instruction, going from level one to six, at which you could consider studying music at college level. “We have a few students who are level six individually, but as a band we are level four. I have three students this year at level six; every year I have between three to five. Last year three went to All State Band. One was an alternate.”

Nivison said he has a mentor, a music teacher in Eldred in the ‘70s, Corinne Duda, who built a “phenomenal program,” and whom he still sees once a year. “She told me our school being at level four is equivalent to a large school in Long Island being at level six,” said the beaming Nivison.

By all counts, Nivison has already succeeded in his stated goal of taking a struggling music program and helping to turn it around.

“I wanted to be a builder,” Nivison concluded.