Despite the challenges they faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, Mandan Public Schools was named among the top music communities in the nation. This is the fourth time they’ve received this recognition.

“We don’t just come in and sing,” said Keri Hess, Director of Choirs at Mandan High School.

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) awards schools across the country for their music programs and achievements. We took a trip over to Mandan High School to find out their secret to success.

“Big picture is we want them to be the best people they can be. The music is secondary,” said Jon Baumann, Director of Bands.

“What sets us apart is the fact that we are from Mandan, North Dakota. We have kind of built our little diamond island over here and have just continued to grow and develop,” said Hess.

The high school has an auditorium for practices, a class just for guitarists and other unique opportunities for students.

“The help you can get from the teachers is wonderful. They bring in all sorts of guests. We go on trips, all sorts of different places. We’ve been to Ireland before. All sorts of crazy things that never would’ve happened without being in the music program” said senior Riley Wetsch.

“Sometimes these kids don’t realize how awesome they are. I always try and reach a little farther than they think they can go,” said Baumann.

Band trips came to a halt once the pandemic hit. Baumann tells us that’s not the only thing that changed due to COVID.

“We really had to change what we taught when that was happening. It was a lot more individual-based, and that’s really not what these kids signed up for,” said Baumann.

Hess tells us the district is working together to keep students on track.

“The elementary teachers are really great at, what do we need to teach more of to help you in the middle school? The middle school then goes, what do we need to do to help the high school?
And we’re always on track to see what do our kids need to go on to college,” said Hess.

Hess also says she’s concerned that students lost a year of typical instruction, but is optimistic for the future.

“I just think the just bonding that’s happened from helping the kids through this. This whole pandemic and all the changes and encouragement. It’s just going to make our program even stronger,” said Hess.

Things are slowly getting back to normal for the program. Their next big event will be the Band Night parade next month. The Bismarck school district was also named as one of the top music communities.