Let the Celebrations Begin!

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By Mary Luehrsen

By Mary Luehrsen

At the end of March, 476 school districts across the United States were recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation as among the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME), along with 118 schools that received the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA), an award that honors individual schools that have demonstrated strong commitment to music education. Now in its 17th year, the Best Communities for Music Education program recognizes teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders who work together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum.

The BCME and SMMA designations take on added significance this year due to the passage of the new federal education law in December 2015. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) designates music as a recommended subject and as part of, “a well-rounded education.” ESSA shifts more control to the states and schools and encourages policy makers to give non-tested subjects such as music a more important role in the development of school curricula. 

The schools and districts that the NAMM Foundation honors this year demonstrate a commitment to supporting music education and assuring opportunities for music learning in the curriculum for all students. We are moving from a time when curricula were narrowed due to pressure from testing and test-prep remediation to a broader view that parents, teachers and the students themselves have told us is important for all children. A well-rounded education – one that includes the opportunity to learn and grow with music and the arts – is central to education goals going forward. The schools and districts we recognize with a BCME or SMMA designation serve as models for other educators looking to develop standards-based music education programs. 

Districts and schools recognized previously by the NAMM Foundation have reported that this honor has significantly increased interest in and support for their music programs. Many school leaders have indicated that the award has had a direct positive impact on funding for music programs. Almost all report that recognition of music programs helps to generate a greater sense of pride in the community and support for what their faculty is doing in the schools. In some cases, this resulted in increased monetary donations and volunteer support for school music programs. The BCME program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, and commitment to standards, community support, participation and access to music instruction. The NAMM Foundation, with the assistance of researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas evaluates participants on these factors.

So, let the celebrating begin! Advocacy for music education is rooted in high visibility for what truly is happening in music education – highly qualified music teachers implementing challenging music learning curricula with engaged students and inspiring student-centered musical and life learning results! To our Best Communities for Music Education districts and Support Music Merit Award schools – CONGRATULATIONS! Thank you for all efforts to continue, expand or build new traditions for music learning for your students and for leading the way in what it means to provide a well-rounded education to all students. 

A complete list of districts and schools recognized this year can be found at:

Best Communities for Music Education: www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2016-best-communities-music-education-districts

SupportMusic Merit Award Winners: www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2016-supportmusic-merit-award-schools

Mary Luehrsen has been a senior executive at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) since 2001 and serves as executive director of the NAMM Foundation, an organization that supports music research, music education advocacy, philanthropic, and public service programs.

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