The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation is pleased to celebrate this year’s Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) list. Now in its 24th year, the 2023 Best Communities for Music Education program recognizes 830 school districts and 78 schools across 43 states for the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders and their support for music education as part of a well-rounded education for all children.
“Music education, as part of a well-rounded education, has never been more important to unleash students’ creativity and supports emotional health and well-being as they build connections through music activities,” shares Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “We applaud the administrators, teachers, and communities who support and sustain music education through a period of intense change and are committed to music education so that all children can explore and express themselves through music.”
Celebrating these outstanding districts and schools comes on the heels of a new report which qualifies millions of children not having access to music education. Released late last year, the National Arts Education Status Report Summary 2019 is a comprehensive look at access to and participation in arts education in public schools in the United States. The report detailed that while 92 percent of students in U.S. public schools have access to music education in school, 3,609,698 students do not have that same opportunity. In addition, 2,095,538 students do not have access to arts education (defined as dance, music, theatre, or visual arts).
This year's awards program acknowledges and celebrates innovative schools and districts that have developed a stronger presence for music education on campus and in the lives of students. 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, created a new way for districts and schools to share their stories with a special “More to Start” supplemental survey. The supplement helped 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.
For most music educators, music remained vital to core curriculum and as part of their community.
Matthew Koperniak of Fulton County Schools wrote, “Our school system has received this designation for 23 years in a row. Our Board of Education is very proud of this designation. It has prompted new Board members to attend performances and show great interest in our music students and programs. It has also prompted continued and expanded support for the program in a variety of ways.”
“As a previous recipient, the designation of ‘Best Communities for Music Education’ allowed us to thank the Board of Education, community members, parents, and staff for their continued effort in providing the best possible opportunities for our students,” shared Chris Reynolds of Topeka Public Schools. “It has increased community awareness and challenged the community to continue making music education a whole-group effort. This has included showcasing programs that were discussed during our application process but also new partnerships that have grown through better communication of the innovative work that our teachers provide.”
In addition to the 830 districts receiving Best Communities for Music Education recognition, 78 individual schools across the nation are awarded with the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA), which recognizes support for school-based music education programs.
Since its inception, thousands of schools and school districts have submitted a survey for evaluation. Past districts named as Best Community for Music Education included urban, suburban, and rural districts. Schools that have received the SupportMusic Merit Award designation included public and private schools and ranged from elementary to middle and high schools.
In conducting the annual survey, The NAMM Foundation and the Music Institute at the University of Kansas are joined by leading national arts organizations, including the League of American Orchestras; 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 Save The Music Foundation.