Lorrie Heagy, program director of Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lorrie Heagy, program director of Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

They’re JAMMin’: Music program creates able-minded students

Juneau Alaska Music Matters shares about its mission to Chamber of Commerce

The Juneau Alaska Music Matters program is creating more than new violinists. It’s also creating youth in-tune socially, emotionally and intellectually, said JAMM leaders.

Meghan Johnson, JAMM executive director, and Lorrie Heagy, JAMM program director, repeatedly highlighted this Thursday during a presentation at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Luncheon. The music program is celebrating its 10th year of partnership with the Juneau School District.

In that time, the program has developed students with higher-than-average scores in math and English, they said.

Meghan Johnson, executive director of Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), right, plays the National Anthem with high school freshmen who started their music careers in the JAMM program on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. The students were part of the presentation Johnson, and Program Director Lorrie Heagy to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its luncheon at the Moose Lodge. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Meghan Johnson, executive director of Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), right, plays the National Anthem with high school freshmen who started their music careers in the JAMM program on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. The students were part of the presentation Johnson, and Program Director Lorrie Heagy to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its luncheon at the Moose Lodge. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The program started at Glacier Valley Elementary 10 years ago as a school-readiness program, and it now also operates in Auke Bay and Riverbend elementary schools. All kindergartners and first-graders at those three schools receive regular violin instruction.

“The research behind it is if you have at least two years of an instrumental background, it not only prepares the brain to be successful for academic success but to be a contributing citizen in your community,” Heagy said.

Starting in second grade, the program becomes an optional after-school activity, and students receive a broader musical education.

“We also do music technology,” Johnson said. “We have a recording technology studio at Riverbend. We do ukulele, we’ve done hula, musical theater, all sorts of other opportunities and exploratories for students.”

“In addition to the academic readiness that we are reinforcing, we are also working on trauma-sensitive practices and reaching the social, emotional needs of our students,” Johnson added. “So that in all that we do, we are developing citizens who will contribute to society.”

At the end of the talk, seven members of JAMM’s inaugural class performed a song about Juneau. Raven Homeschool ninth-grader Jemima Verebasaga was one of the first kindergartens to go through the JAMM program. She told the audience that music is one of the only ways she can “truly express” herself.

“When I’m having a rough day, I just listen to music, play music and I feel so much better,” she said.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com.


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