Deadline Extended Through Feb. 5: Apply Now for the Best Communities for Music Education Recognition from The NAMM Foundation

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The 2023 Best Communities for Music Education Web banner celebrating the winners

School districts and individual schools can be recognized for their continued commitment to music education through The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) awards program. Now in its 24th year, the award 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 as part of a well-rounded education.  

Given the impact of COVID on traditional in-person learning, researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, in conjunction with The NAMM Foundation, have created a new way for districts and schools to share their stories with a special “More to Start” supplemental survey. The supplement will help researchers understand access and entry points for students to begin or resume their musical journeys and the challenges and opportunities in the post-pandemic classroom. 

Previous winners of the 2022 Best Communities for Music Education and SupportMusic Merit Awards will be able to use their 2021-22 submission data, provided their schools and districts have not experienced significant change. Those new to the awards program or those with new data to share will need to complete the comprehensive survey. In addition, all applicants will complete the “More to Start” supplemental survey.  

Dr. Christopher Johnson of the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas says, “We find ourselves venturing into a new educational landscape these days. The 2022-23 Best Communities for Music Education survey allows administrators to take a fresh look at their programs. It also gives administrators, teachers, and communities a chance to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments their programs have enjoyed – keeping music programs as a critical part of their well-rounded educational experience.” 

Over the past two decades, 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. Administrators and teachers alike have found the survey to be a resource to assess and affirm music learning opportunities in their districts and schools and rally community and financial support.

Matthew Shepard, Director of Bands at Meridian Public Schools in Sanford, Michigan, says that “Being a NAMM Best Communities for Music Education recipient annually since 2014 has brought increased awareness for expanding our music staff, as we now have multiple teachers for our band program that reaches over 400 students daily.  In addition, the budget for the music program has more than doubled since first receiving the NAMM recognition nine years ago.  The importance of the arts has also led to the district passing a bond that provided the Junior High with a new, state-of-the-art band room.”

At Maine-Endwell Central School District in upstate New York, Jacqueline Kovacs, Director of Bands, shares, “The designation as one of the ‘Best Communities for Music Education’ has validated to our community the standard of excellence which our music department has continued to provide to our students. The designation has also influenced the decisions of our stakeholders. Our involvement with BCME helps guide the decision-makers regarding staffing, programing, new curriculum opportunities and continued support of the budget…Now during the pandemic, a BCME designation will help recognize the commitment our district, teachers and community members have to music education.”

Since the passage by Congress in 2015 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many school districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs. ESSA provides designated funding for well-rounded educational opportunities through Title IV Part A Student Academic Success and Achievement grants. NAMM Foundation research has revealed that these grants are being widely used by school districts to address instructional gaps in access to music and arts education. 

Since its inception, over 2,000 schools and school districts have submitted a survey for evaluation. Based on survey responses in 2022, 738 school districts were recognized as Best Communities for Music Education, and 80 schools with the SupportMusic Merit Award. Past districts named Best Community for Music Education included urban, suburban, and rural districts. Schools that have received the SupportMusic Merit Award 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 the survey until February 5, 2023.

In conducting the annual survey, The NAMM Foundation and the survey designers are also joined by advisory organizations in the fields of music and education, including  League of American Orchestras;  Mr. Holland's Opus FoundationMusic for AllMusic Teachers National AssociationNational Guild For Community Arts Education; Save the Music Foundation; Yamaha; and Young Audiences.