This week, 527 school districts and 92 schools across the nation are being recognized by The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for their outstanding music education programs. In cooperation with researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, and based on survey results, The NAMM Foundation each year selects school districts to be recognized as being among the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME), while individual schools with excellent music education receive the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA).
Now in its 18th year, the awards program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of the curriculum. Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education. These districts and schools set the bar in offering students access to comprehensive music education.
The designation takes on added significance this year with new research showing strong ties between K-12 school students who actively participate in school music education programs and overall student success. A recent study of students in the Chicago Public Schools by brain researchers at Northwestern University, detailed in Neuroscientist and Education Week, builds on previous findings that participation in music education programs helps improves brain function, discipline and language development.
“Studying music has intrinsic benefits and, on its own, is core to learning. Also, the links between student success and music education have now been demonstrated by brain researchers in multiple studies,” said Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “The schools and districts our foundation recognizes are building on that connection between music and academics. These schools and districts are models for other educators who see music as a key ingredient in a well-rounded curriculum that makes music available to all children, regardless of zip code.”
From coast-to-coast, schools recognized by The NAMM Foundation are engaging students and their communities through music. Whether it’s marching bands from elementary, middle and high school parading through Levittown, New York; high school students in Beachwood, Ohio performing with the Cleveland Orchestra on their school stage; students in Buffalo Grove, Illinois taking pride in a new auditorium that accommodates its expanding orchestra, band and chorale programs; or 400 high school choral singers in Henrico County, Virginia performing spirituals in the community for Black History Month, schools and districts are creating a community of learners and showing what they’ve learned to the broader community.
“We have been awarding the Best Communities for Music Education for 18 years,” said Luehrsen, “and it is heartening to see how many parents and community members check to see if their schools have been recognized. Parents are choosing to live where schools are committed to music education offerings that are part of the curriculum.” One parent is Susan Vinal, a mother of four who lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. “The quality of the music program was a determining factor when we were choosing schools,” said Vinal. “The first question my children asked admissions officers was about music classes and opportunities. Music is a big part of the high school experience. It certainly has been a very positive experience for my kids who perform in the marching band or sing in chorus. We could have chosen a different school and community, but we went with the one that offered the superior music program.”
The BCME program and the SupportMusic Merit Award evaluate schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards and access to music instruction.
A list of all 527 Best Communities in Music Education can be found here.
A list of the 92 schools receiving SupportMusic Merit Awards can be found here.