CHAMPLAIN I wasnt expecting all of this to happen, William Amato exclaimed immediately following the grand finale of the PEAK Classroom Music Festival. The Northern Adirondack Central School fifth-grader was one of 162 fourth- and fifth-graders chosen by their school music teachers from 13 schools throughout Clinton County to participate in last Saturdays event at Northeastern Clinton Central School. Described as the cream of the crop by event co-chairperson Saundra Stortz of host school Seton Academy, the selected students were treated to a day of musical exploration. It was a jammin day all the way through, Stortz said enthused. The students arrived early in the morning and immediately broke into color-coded groups. The groups then had the chance to rotate through eight stations focusing on different musical skills drumming, performing on recorders, folk dancing, non-pitched percussion, movement, classroom instruments, chorus and parent accompaniment. According to event literature, the focus throughout the day is on the creative process of making music rather than on the final product. Nevertheless, the end product was a final staged performance before an audience of proud parents and educators. I wasnt expecting to be out on stage, said young Mr. Amato. I was a little scared, but it was sort of easy to learn it, he explained of his non-pitched percussion number to Hambone, a catchy tune that had the audience clapping along. According to Stortz, the event was designed to give the average child in the average classroom the chance to get on stage. Later grades have all-county music festivals, she explained. We want to celebrate classroom music. PEAK which stands for Parents, Educators and Kids first took place in Clinton County in 1989 as a pilot program for the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA). A guide has since been created by Clinton County educators Diane Sabourin and Jane Ayers to be used by music teachers throughout the state to replicate the festivals success. Music education struggles, admitted Stortz. Since music is not a state mandated subject, the subject always faces being dropped when school budgets are stretched, Stortz added. Still, she would encourage people to look at the many benefits of music education. Recent studies show music education helps develop language and reasoning, creativity, and cultural empathy, not to mention the fact students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT, she said. However, the PEAK festival is about more than just raising some test scores. It reinforces for them the excitement that they might not get in their music classes, Stortz said. They get to visit new schools, meet new kids, work with new teachers its a very broadening experience.