The Sound of Music?

Joe and Becky Pritchard have a word of advice for parents seeking a college scholarship for their kids - think music as well as sports.

“Music often takes a backseat to sports, but there are so many music scholarships available, including stipends for lessons through a full-ride education,” says Becky Pritchard, president and director of music education of Pritchard Music Academy in The Kentlands.

Once a year, they take time out from their shop and studio on Main Street to join with colleagues from across the country to meet with congressmen and their staff to promote not only the merits of the $17 billion global music products industry, but the importance of music as part of an every day school curriculum.

What they have known anecdotally for years through their personal and professional musical careers was recently validated by a University of Kansas study that found a positive link between participation in music and increased student achievement and engagement.

Joe, who lived in New York City pursuing an acting career and is now following his passion for blues guitar, and Becky, whose professional career included playing French horn in Boston, New York City and Maryland, opened their academy in November 2009. It was in the midst of a nasty worldwide recession and right before a record-breaking snowfall blanketed the area. They barely had a dozen students. Today, the Pritchard Music Academy has 265 students, 10 teachers, two classrooms and six private lesson rooms. When they aren't in their shop selling or giving lessons, the Pritchards can be found volunteering at local elementary through high school programs. They currently have six chamber ensembles, two windwood ensembles and a beginning band that performs regularly in the community. These ensembles provide their students with additional musical education where they can continue to sharpen their skills to prepare for the next level of music education.

Of course, The Kentlands community gets a lot of their spare time. Both belong to community committees and they founded and head the Main Street Music Festival, the Gaithersburg Blues Festival and the Gaithersburg Bluegrass Festival.