Where are the Best Communities for Music Education?

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This week, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation recognizes 388 school districts in 46 states as among the Best Communities for Music Education. In its 16th year, the program singles out districts for outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of the core curriculum.

In addition to the 388 districts receiving Best Communities for Music Education recognition, 120 individual schools across the nation are being awarded the Support Music Merit Award (SMMA), which recognizes support for school-based music education programs.

Ensuring that every child has access to music in schools requires commitment by students, teachers, and those who determine school budgets,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the NAMM Foundation. “We commend the districts and schools that have earned the Best Community designation this year.  They join with so many that believe as we do that there is a vital link between do-rei-me and the ABCs.”

The BCME and SMMA designations take on added significance this year with new research showing strong ties between music education and overall student success. A new body of evidence, released at the start of the school year by Northwestern University brain researcher Dr. Nina Kraus, shows that participation in music education programs helps improve brain function and sparks language development. The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio highlighted the new research.

Not all of the nation’s 13,588 school districts are in harmony when it comes to promoting the arts and music education. According to the White House’s Turnaround Arts program, for example, 1.3 million elementary school students still have no access to music classes.

The BCME program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction. Researchers at the Center for Public Partnerships & Research, Kansas (an affiliate of the University of Kansas) led the data review.

In past years a BCME designation has helped raise local awareness of quality music programs from coast to coast. Earning the designation has assisted communities in securing funds for music programs threatened by budget cuts, and acts as a source of community pride. News of past winners being recognized nationally often leads to local media coverage, community recognition and even billboards trumpeting the local school music programs.

A complete list of districts and schools receiving Best Community and SupportMusic designations from the NAMM Foundation in 2015 can be found here: