Chelsea Named Among Best Communities for Music Education


For the second year in a row, Chelsea’s music program has been awarded with the NAMM Foundation’s “Best Communities for Music Education” award.

The music department applied to receive the award for the 2019-2020 school year and re-applied this year. The application was a long process, requiring lots of information about Chelsea’s music program.

“They wanted to know things like the number of teachers and students in the music program, how often we perform, whether or not we travel, and if we participate in festivals like Solo and Ensemble,” Beach Middle School Band Director Katy Steklac said. “I think the application was about 57 pages long in total.”

Chelsea’s music program has been successful because of many things, one of them being student involvement. 

“The students are definitely a large part of the music program,” Steklac said. “They are committed and there wouldn’t be a strong program without them.”

In addition to dedicated students, Orchestra Director Phillip Sylvester credits the size and strength of the music program to three dedicated directors.

“Jed Fritzemeier, Steve Hinz, and Rick Catherman have made the music program at Chelsea what it is today,” Sylvester said. “The only reason there is an orchestra program is because of Jed Fritzemeier, and the success of it is a testament to his career.”

Support from parents and administrators has also helped to grow the program. However, the community at Chelsea is what makes the music program special and different from other schools.

“Because of the size of the district, students grow up together and know each other really well,” Sylvester said. “Chelsea is really like a family.”

Just like Chelsea supports music at CHS, the music program also reaches out to Chelsea.

“Music is a big part of our community at Chelsea,” Steklac said. “Not just in the schools, but also with the local churches and chamber groups like the Chelsea Chamber Players.”

In Chelsea, students are surrounded by music from a young age. In elementary school, students are introduced to choir and recorder, and in 5th grade they choose between choir, orchestra, and band. Music is mandatory through 6th grade, and after that students can choose whether or not they want to continue. 

According to Sylvester and Steklac, the current goal of the music department is to preserve what has been built up.

“The previous music directors worked in the district for a long time and built a reputation in our community for musical excellence,” Steklac said. “As a music staff now, we are working on maintaining that excellence and making sure their hard work doesn’t disappear.”

By receiving the award from the NAMM Foundation, Chelsea’s music program gets national recognition for its quality and effectiveness.

“It’s a good thing for our program to build recognition because the students here work really hard,” Steklac said. “It’s important that we recognize that and the music program in general.”

The music department plans to apply again next year for the award, and aspires to continue to be a stronger and stronger program. 

“Being recognized by this award means we have reached a point where we can be an example of what a good music program looks like,” Sylvester said. “There is certainly pressure to maintain the program, but also opportunities to innovate and improve it.”