ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School District’s music program was nationally recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation Thursday.

They’re being honored for an outstanding commitment to education. The award comes from the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation — and it’s the fourth consecutive year for the district.

Students and music teachers in the district also received praise for their performances through the COVID-19 pandemic. “We never gave up,” said music teacher Patty Yarmel, at School No. 19.

Yarmel and Hannah Garfield have been working with students at School No. 19.

The ensemble News 8 visited this week, is a mix of advanced and intermediate levels. Students begin the music curriculum in third grade, and many stick with it as they get older.

When the pandemic put a pause on their normal routines for over a year and a half, it was challenging.

“Everything was online, we continued giving lessons virtually to anyone who wanted lessons, we provided that, we brought instruments to houses, we made it work for the kids,” Yarmell said.

A keyword through it all is perseverance.

“We learned a lot about perseverance honestly, because we believe in this program,” Yarmell said.

“We had some kids who never missed a week of their lesson so much of that responsibility was really put on them,” Garfield said.

Returning to the classroom in person, was an adjustment. The most challenging part for some? Fourth grader Shy’irra Brown says remembering the notes! The students play music from memory.

But they’re committed.

Staff says the program is called “Strings for Success” for a reason.

“Not only due to the strength of our music program, but also the relationships we have with the community and the community arts organization,” said Dominic Pickard, RCSD Director of the Arts.

“We reached out to Hochstein School of Music, Rochester Broadway Theater League and the Memorial Art Gallery, to provide integrated enrichment opportunities for our students,” said Elizabeth Cross, Assistant Principal for School No. 19.

While participation has declined over the pandemic, staff are confident it can bounce back. The students are inspiring and grabbing the attention of others — when they don’t even realize it.

School No. 19 is also planning on becoming an art school in the fall. Making it the first elementary art school in the district.

The next musical performances in the district are to be held on following days:

  • Friday, May 6 at 12 p.m. – RPO, School No. 58 and SOTA Jazz performance at Lilac Festival
  • Thursday, May 12 at 6 p.m. – RCSD Citywide Choir Concert at East High School
  • Tuesday, May 24 at 5 p.m. – Arts for All Summer Scholarship Fundraiser at Heroes Brewing; tickets are $20