Picture a third-grader so passionate about music – and so determined to shine in a school recital – that she spent every lunch and recess learning piano. She even made a piano from paper to practice proper finger placement after school, since her family could not afford the instrument at home.
The girl's approach typifies the culture, spirit of dedication, and love of music at the Pacific Avenue Academy of Music, the only school of its kind in the region.
Her story also helps demonstrate why the campus, established in August 2016, earned a coveted Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association in 2018.
JUSD received the award, which honors standout programs, strong school governance and best practices in education, at the association's awards ceremony in San Francisco on Nov. 29.
“It is wonderful that people can see how much music can help kids grow – socially, emotionally and academically," said PAAM's Principal, Maureen Dalimot. “We are excited to offer this program to all students and help them develop a love of music."
PAAM, which enrolls about 400 students from pre-kindergarten through seventh grade, serves as an official music magnet school for Riverside County and Inland Southern California.
In just its third year, the school has achieved honors at the state and national levels; PAAM also earned a SupportMusic Merit Award from the nonprofit NAMM Foundation. Conferred this year on just 135 schools nationwide, the honor recognizes outstanding commitment to music education by individual school sites.
The principal praised PAAM teachers, staff, parents and students for the strong showing: “Everyone on our campus deserves recognition and credit."
Meanwhile, the school continues to grow and innovate. This year, PAAM has expanded to welcome seventh-graders – who the principal said “have stepped up to be models to our younger students" – and has added a recording/green screen production studio where students learn to create, produce and run a weekly show.
More broadly, PAAM earned a Golden Bell for attributes including:
Music everywhere: The school prioritizes academics and uses music to support scholastic growth. For instance, reading lessons incorporate lyrics and composers, and musical notes help teach fractions. Teachers weave music into every subject.
Instruction based on neuroscience: Lessons in classical music help students unlock portions of the brain that are accessible only through music. Clearing these pathways can help students excel in math and language arts. Music education also can enhance imagination, optimize learning conditions and bolster memory.
Academic success: After one year in a complete music program, nearly all PAAM students improved in state-required academic testing. For example, all fourth- and sixth-grade students showed significant growth in concepts and procedures, problem-solving, modeling and data analysis, and communicating reasoning.
Learning without limits: Music has helped students improve school attendance; develop grit, resilience and a growth mind-set; and build a foundation for success in college, careers and life.
“With our program, students are learning without limits in every way – music is a great background for learning everything," the principal said.
Meantime, the girl with the paper piano, now in fourth grade, continues to thrive.
“When her parents saw her dedication, her father began to work extra shifts to be able to support her and purchase a piano," Ms. Dalimot said. “She still is working hard to get better and is practicing at home with her own piano."