Milford Central Academy's music program was one out of 96 schools nationwide recently recognized by the NAMM Foundation, a national organization that recognizes schools and districts throughout the country as Best Communities for Music Education.

At Milford Central Academy, there’s “band land” and “choir land,” but to the school’s two music teachers, music is music.

And it’s that blending of groups through co-teaching that has created a unique environment for the music students at Central Academy, helping them to understand much more than just how to read music.

The success of Central Academy’s music program was recently recognized by the NAMM Foundation, a national organization that recognizes schools and districts throughout the country as Best Communities for Music Education.

Out of 13,588 school districts nationwide, Milford Central Academy was one of 96 schools recognized with the Support Music Merit Award, the only school to receive this recognition in the state of Delaware.

Choir Director Andrea Davis said it’s a combination of how she and Band Director Wayne Smith teach, as well as what they teach, that has made the program so successful.

“We have the luxury to teach what we love doing and do what we love teaching,” Davis said. “I don’t want to say I was surprised [with the award] because of the quality of the programs, but it validates that the direction you’re taking is the correct one.”

Smith agreed, but said that the students were both surprised and honored with the award.

“They’re certainly not cocky about it,” he said. “They all understand it’s a team effort.”

At the middle school level, Davis said music classes are much more than just decoding notes and students receive additional lessons as they learn not only how to play, but how to count time, learn rhythms and understand the purpose and historical connections of the pieces they’re learning.

“We do a lot of poetic applications to understand the poetic devices the composer or arranger might have in mind,” Davis said. But beyond just recognizing those elements, Davis said she challenges her students to explain why the pieces might have been written in a certain way with certain lyrics, applying social studies skills and cultural understanding to showcase how those students come to their conclusions.

“We don’t teach many musical pieces, but we teach them in depth,” Smith added. “Music is one of those things that can be applied to any curriculum in some shape or form.”

Eighth grade choir student Emily Sylvester said it’s the passion that comes with practicing music that keeps the Central Academy program going strong.

“I think that being out of the 96 schools shows how dedicated the staff and students are and I think that’s exciting,” Sylvester said. “Being in the music program, because we’re so dedicated to music, it kind of shuts us out from any negativity in the school.”

Sylvester’s classmate Sierra McCrea agreed music brings out an intense level of dedication to the craft, but that if it wasn’t for teachers like Davis, she wouldn’t have found that passion.

“Music is all I ever think about. It’s my goal and my dream. I’m not giving up,” McCrea said. “Miss Davis is a wonderful teacher. We couldn’t have made it this far without her.”

Seventh-grade band student Ben Sobota said the success of Central Academy’s music program goes back to the passion that’s relayed by Davis and Smith.

“Mr. Smith and Miss Davis really care about us and music and show that they care about us,” he said. “We all work really hard. When you put your head to it and your heart in it, you can make some really beautiful noises.”