The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation is seeking the top school districts and schools with an exemplary commitment to music education curriculum to be recognized as part of the Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) program. Now in its 19th year, the Best Communities for Music Education (district level) and the SupportMusic Merit Award (school level) offers national recognition and visibility for school music programs, and honors the efforts of educators, administrators, students and community music education champions who share in the common goal to ensure access to music for all students in the classroom.
“A commitment to music education signifies that school and community leaders believe in the potential of all their students and are working to assure access to a well-rounded curriculum that includes music,” shared Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “The Best Communities for Music Education program affirms and applauds the dedication of districts, schools, parents and the surrounding community for providing music education as part of the school day and taught by highly-qualified teachers.”
For the past 19 years, the awards program has served as a catalyst to rally and expand music education programs, as well as to gain additional community support and funding. “The Best Communities for Music Education, won five years in a row by the Bakersfield City School District, has provided pride and enthusiasm in our community,” shared Michael Stone, coordinator of the visual and performing arts department at the Bakersfield City School District. “Since the first recognition, the District has implemented four vocal music specialist teacher positions and one additional instrumental music specialist teacher position to serve our student population. The BCME Award was definitely a shot in the arm for our Governing Board, Superintendent and the music faculty.”
Brett Farr, director of fine arts at Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD in Carrollton, Texas, a ten-time BCME winner, echoed that sentiment: “This past year our program expanded with an additional Fine Arts teaching unit, as well as a budgetary increase which will allow us to grow our programs. The BCME award gives us the acknowledgment and a foundation to continue to build support for our programs.”
“Such a designation shows that our board of education, administration and community supports the quality, sequential music education Longwood provides,” affirmed Dr. John Gallagher of Longwood Central School District in Middle Island, New York, a district which counts nine BCME awards. “It keeps Longwood's music and performing arts in the forefront of our educational system and shows that we are recognized on a national level for what we do.”
Another nine-time awardee, Michelle Hiscavich, of Newton School District in Newton Connecticut, shared that the implications of the award are widespread, and for many music students, the recognition of the quality of the program is long lasting: “This award helps us to maintain program, staffing, and funding in a climate of declining enrollment and state budget woes. The award was also instrumental in working with the Board of Education and the community to take on a major high school auditorium renovation project, where future student performances will take place. Our students continue to pursue music degrees because of the training and interests they have developed as a result of our district's music program.”
The SupportMusic Merit Award is another powerful tool for individual schools, garnering enthusiasm from students and administrators alike, as well as helping students to realize their full potential. At Smith River School, in Smith River, California, a school which has been recognized for four years with the SMMA, music educator Marshall Jones says that the award has inspired the entire student body, and has kept funding in the program: “This award has set a precedent that all students in all grades are inspiring music students, working towards the day that they can be a member of the band,” commented Jones. “Each year the topic of funding comes up and this designation gives a strong message that every penny invested in music programs comes back a hundred times over. Students are engaged, motivated, and have a growth mindset that they can and will achieve success.”
The national recognition program opens on the heels of new brain health research from Northwestern University neuroscientist Dr. Nina Kraus, which builds on previous findings that participation in music education programs helps improve brain function, discipline and language development. “We learn best when attention and memory are engaged, when we are motivated and we care about what we are learning, and when our motor systems are involved,” Kraus affirms. “This is well illustrated by the fact that playing rather than listening to music has a deep impact on reorganizing and strengthening the nervous system.”
The designations are awarded based on a school or district submitted survey process, and evaluated on funding, staffing of qualified teachers, standards, curriculum, community support, participation, facilities and other factors which affect access and demonstrate commitment to music education. The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas reviews the survey data and offers the designation to districts or schools which meet the criteria and qualifications for designation.
In 2017, over 2,000 schools and school districts submitted a survey for evaluation. Based on survey responses, 527 school districts were recognized with the Best Communities for Music Education, and 92 schools with the SupportMusic Merit Award. Past districts named a BCME included urban, suburban and rural districts. Schools which have received the SMMA designation included both public and private schools and range from elementary to middle and high schools.
District officials, music educators and school staff in the domestic United States are invited to complete this survey by January 31, 2018 by visiting The NAMM Foundation website.
In conducting the annual survey, The NAMM Foundation is joined by advisory organizations in the fields of music and education: Americans for the Arts; League of American Orchestras; John Lennon Educational Tour Bus; Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation; Music for All; Music Teachers National Association; National Guild For Community Arts Education; Yamaha Corporation of America; Young Audiences; and VH1 Save The Music Foundation.