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Encore

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Even as the statewide debate over the Common Core curriculum intensifies, during this coming Christmas season let us pause for a moment to relish the music that comes from our schools.

As classes of elementary school children provide smiling parents and grandparents Christmas concerts in schools from Massena to Pulaski, look behind the voices to recognize the teachers who are encouraging every smidgen of talent from the classes. The music program in our schools works because it is focused on accomplishment and performance.

The music teachers of the north country have built distinguished careers by helping youngsters develop their musical talents from singing, acting and playing musical instruments. Teachers have repeatedly assembled large casts to perform musicals, which provide great joy and entertainment to large audiences.

In Watertown recently, Russell Faunce led the city school district music staff to produce the musical “Anything Goes.” The music team put together more than 30 high school students with a supporting team of parent volunteers, school district food service and building staff members to stage Cole Porter’s musical. The set, sound system, dancing, orchestra, acting and singing leveraged the abilities of all sorts of skilled students and staff to entertain three large audiences at the high school.

The core of this success is the music teaching staff, whose members cast the right voices and the right skills in the roles. Their ability to recognize raw talent in youngsters and then nurture it allows students to excel and become confident with their innate abilities. That should be exactly the goal of public education.

And to prove that Watertown music programs are long-term teaching successes, on the evenings of Nov. 22 and 23 the community was treated to a Watertown school system graduate whose special talents were recognized and developed while he was a student. Ted Keegan blossomed under the tutelage of a variety of Watertown music teachers including Dorothy Willaman.

Broadway beckoned, and he went. His career there is well known in Watertown.

On his most recent return, he assembled many music teachers to an integral part of his two concert programs to raise money for Jefferson County Hospice. The standing-room crowds enjoyed Mr. Keegan’s voice and the memories evoked as he remembered the importance of music to his family.

Success in music is no different than success in any other fields. Everyone has innate skills, but success requires exploiting that ability.

Teachers are charged with helping students find and develop their inner skills. And Watertown’s music teachers have proven they know what they are doing from their individual performances in providing music experiences, producing plays and concerts and helping the most skilled exploit their abilities.

Shouldn’t that be the foundation of Common Core curriculum for all academics in the public school system?

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