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More than music, MLK Jr. High school prioritizes music programs to aid student growth

The goal is to teach educators, students, and the community as a whole about the importance and benefits of high-quality music education programs in local schools.

NEW ORLEANS — Today is the last day of National Music in Our Schools Month. The goal is to teach educators, students, and the community as a whole about the importance and benefits of high-quality music education programs in local schools.

Music is threaded into the fabric of everything that is New Orleans. It’s no different when you go into local high schools across our area. Over at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, they’re using music literacy to help students overcome life’s challenges and excel in the classroom.

While the pride of the Lower Ninth Ward Marching Band is a bit smaller in comparison to some of the other schools, they are just as loud and proud. The school prize itself on the over-well-being of their students, academically, mentally, and emotionally. 

The school’s principal Dr. Lindsay Moore says their music students are some of the best and brightest minds in the schools. He says that’s directly tied to the music program which he says can help students focus, reduce stress, manage anxiety, and help them excel in the classroom. He said every time he hears his students play, he is amazed by their talent.

Moore said, "It’s really astounding! Kids who perform in music do better academically and it is true. It’s true, they’re better all around students."

Moore said the band directors keep their kids in line not just around parade season, but all year round. Assistant Band Director's Zedric Jones, Joe Johnson and Terry Fryson said the skills they teach the kids in band help them out in other areas of their lives.

Johnson said, "Music helps with social skills. Music helps with mental health. Music is an important part of creativity, as well as helping the academic side of school."

For students like Jabari Jackson, being a part of the band gives him a sense of belonging.

"It means a lot because when I first joined, it was like I didn’t want to say I didn’t enjoy it, but I was kind of confused on where I stood, but now it’s like as time went on I feel like I’ve become more than just a part of the band I’m a part of a family," Jackson said.

For others like tuba player Harold Johnson, it's about preparing him for the next step in life. He already has plans of becoming a business owner and video game designer.

"I want to be good enough at band to get a scholarship to college and use college and a scholarship to get me further," said Johnson. "I feel joyful when I see people listening and humming to the music I play. It brings me joy."

"That music gives you that, so it brings your soul in and it keeps that beat rocking in your heart," he said.

"We try to adapt ourselves to help these kids because we all know what the kids are going through at home. When they come through here, they may be having a bad day, but it’s our job to uplift them and keep them their spirit high. The music helps him cope with any situation that they’re dealing with," said Jones.

Having a strong support system in the band is something Johnson makes him feel a greater since of responsibility to ensure he succeeds.

Johnson said, "Not just me, but I think it makes us feel important. It’s our duty as a band to live up to and be what they think I can be or what we can be. You know reached the potential that we can."

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