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October 21, 2021

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Longtime NDPMA band director agrees with research that says students in music and band programs tend to excel in other academics. But, he says, there's also so much more for Notre Dame students who sign up.

In early October, Detroit's Scott Gwinnel Jazz Orchestra had the NDP Jazz Band sit in for a set at Aretha's Jazz Cafe located in Detroit's Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts.

With music instruction available to students from Pre-K through high school, Notre Dame has one of the most extensive primary and secondary music programs in the state. The benefits for students of such an exemplary music education is well established and backed up by numerous studies. 

Take this one, for example, published two years ago in the Journal of Educational Psychology, which comes from the American Psychological Association. It was conducted by the University of British Columbia and looked at all students in schools in British Columbia who finished grade 12 between 2012 and 2015. Their research disproved a stubborn belief that students who devote time to music rather than math, science and English will underperform in those disciplines.

"Our research proved this assumption wrong and found that the more the students engage with music, the better they do in those other subjects," said UBC education professor and the study's principal investigator, Peter Gouzouasis, in the Rockville, Maryland-based Science Daily. 

"The students who learned to play a musical instrument in elementary school and continued playing in high school not only score significantly higher, but were about one academic year ahead of their non-music peers with regard to their English, mathematics and science skills, as measured by exam grades, regardless of their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, gender and prior learning in mathematics and English."

With affirmation like that, it's no wonder NDPMA's director of band and music educator Joe Martin can double down with such confidence.


"Our program teaches more than just music," he said. "It helps students with many skills, including organization, teamwork, creating and expressing their feelings, leadership, dedication, commitment, friendship, problem-solving and many other life skills as they become more like Christian people, upright citizens and academic scholars. 

"Students that go through our music and band program also can go on to college and universities and feel comfortable performing with top groups around the country. In fact, looking beyond college, many students go on to play professionally and make a good living." 

The UBC study goes even further in backing up up Martin's claims.

Seniors in the Notre Dame marching band pose for a photo at one of the school's home football games in 2021.

"Learning to play a musical instrument and playing in an ensemble is very demanding," said the study's co-investigator Martin Guhn, an assistant professor in UBC's school of population and public health. "A student has to learn to read music notation, develop eye-hand-mind coordination, develop keen listening skills, develop team skills for playing in an ensemble and develop discipline to practice. All those learning experiences, and more, play a role in enhancing the learner's cognitive capacities, executive functions, motivation to learn in the greater school curriculum, and self-efficacy."


Because joining the band program is considered an extracurricular — much like joining the volleyball, robotics or football programs at Notre Dame — it's never going to be every student's cup of tea. But for those who do participate, Martin says they will get to experience much more than music class and marching at halftime of the football game. He said, for example, over the years, the NDP band has traveled extensively although the pandemic has put a damper on many of his travel plans over the last 18 months.

"In the past, we have traveled at least once to Mackinaw City to perform as well as to Orlando, Fla., London, England, and Oahu, Hawaii," he said. "And the band is planning a trip to Rome, Italy, in 2023, which we're all looking forward to, God willing."

In 2016, the NDP band was part of a “Salute to Valor Music Festival,” held July 4 on the Battleship Missouri Memorial on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The event helped commemorate the 75th anniversary of the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor.

Locally, the marching band is regular feature at the Rochester, Mich., Hometown Christmas Parade and has performed at numerous parish festivals in the area. Most recently, the NDP jazz band was asked to perform at the famed Aretha's Jazz Cafe located in Detroit's Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts. 

Also, after participating in many local and state competitions with other school bands and ensembles, the NDP symphony band has received top division ratings for more than 20 years with awards most recently including a number of "first divisions" at the 2021 Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) symphony band and marching festival. 


While pleased that his band members, who currently represent about 10% of the overall student population (a healthy number, he says), continue to do well in competitions, director Martin said it's not just the accolades that make him proud. 

"I consider myself very blessed to work with such talented students for 24 years here at Notre Dame," he said. "Not only are they talented in music, the students are involved in so many other activities where it takes a real concerted effort to prioritize their schedule to make it all work."

It is amazing, he added, to watch students go from lower school to 12th grade and see how they blossom into young leaders and musicians. 

"We have students who have gone on to teach music either privately or in educational institutions. And some are traveling the world in professional capacities. But most importantly, I am so very proud of the kind of men and women they've turned out to be." 


For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at