boehm_02Carol Boehm recently won Yale School of Music’s Distinguished Music Educators award. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)


The bell rings at Red Bank Primary School Monday morning and Carol Boehm immediately springs her second grade class into action, leading a cadence, “1-2-3, S-I-T on the R-U-G.”

The students, dressed in the school’s prescribed red, white and black, plop to the floor and turn their heads to Boehm, who’s pointing to a treble clef on the whiteboard.

The day’s lesson is “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and after a brief refresher identifying the notes on the board, Boehm pulls out four xylophones and breaks the kids into groups for a half-hour of repetition — which more or less means Boehm’s eyes are darting across the room, looking for mallets straying from the song’s notes of B-A-G-D, or praising a student here and there for sitting patiently while waiting for his turn.

“I like to think I challenge my students a lot,” said Boehm, who’s taught music at the primary school for nine years. She’s got something to show for her work. At this point in the school year, the second grade class can read music with no problem. And Monday, they were all playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with two hands.

These are small victories when framed against an entire year of lessons, but are part and parcel of Boehm’s classroom accomplishments that have been recognized on a higher level. boehm_01Boehm at work Monday morning. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

Boehm was one of 50 music teachers in the United States selected for the Yale School of Music 2011 Distinguished Music Educators Award. The biennial award, for which more than 300 teachers were in the running, is given to educators selected for their “outstanding accomplishments teaching music in public schools,” according to the university’s website.

“I’m still in shock,” said Boehm, a Massachusetts native who majored in clarinet clarinet major at the UMass, Amherst. “It’s not something I actually expected to win when competing across the country.”

Along with the 49 other winners, Boehm will travel to New Haven to take part in the university’s symposium, plus take part in a workshop with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma — a personal favorite of Boehm’s. Boehm’s work at the school goes beyond the classroom.

She also leads after-school chorus, third-grade band, organizes and puts on the winter and spring concerts and teams up with the Two River Theater Company and Count Basie Theatre for various music programs throughout the year.

And despite two consecutive budget seasons in which cuts threatened to put programs in peril, Boehm said she’s gotten the backing she needs to continue her own goals for the children: to be able to read and play music by the time they’re ready to leave the school.

“Another is to instill love of music in them,” she said.

When the bell rang Monday, the students’ reluctance to pack up the xylophones and excitement to hearing they’re moving on to a new set of notes next week indicated she’s keeping up with that goal.

“I’m hoping to keep that going throughout the years,” she said.