The Best Communities for Music Education Sought by the NAMM Foundation

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation is seeking school districts and schools with an exemplary commitment to music education to be recognized as part of the Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) program. Now in its 21st 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 as part of the curriculum.

“For the past twenty-one years, the Best Communities for Music Education program has celebrated districts, schools, parents, and communities for ensuring that music education is part of the school day and available to all children,” said Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “The award sends a message to the larger community that music is essential to a well-rounded education and supports the creative potential of all students.”

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. 

For Brad Sherwood, a music teacher at Grand Forks Public School District in North Dakota, “The recognition validates the efforts of our dedicated music staff. It functions as a third-party evaluation for the community, Board, and Administration. We, as educators, strive each and every day to provide quality music education to the students in the district.” 

In Texas, Michael Ouellette, Katy ISD’s Executive Director of Fine Arts Education offers that, “Being named a Best Community for Music Education for 15 years shows school administrators, board members, community members, teachers, and students that their hard work and dedication to music education is a necessary and vital part of our culture as well as a valued part of educating the whole child in Katy ISD.” 

“Being designated a NAMM Foundation Best Community has been a tremendous help in both maintaining and growing our music program financially through our district budget, by assisting in our advocacy of adding new course offerings and staff for our students and by instilling and maintaining a high sense of pride for our program with our students, faculty, administration and community,” affirmed Matthew Nordhausen of Leroy Central School District in New York. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to once again participate in the application process and once again, earn the right to be designated a Best Communities for Music Education.”

Brett Farr of Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD in Texas attributes the BCME designation for assisting program growth: “Having now been recognized twelve times by the National Association of Music Merchants as a Best Communities for Music Education, I can confidently say that this designation has helped in our efforts to increase our funding, add personnel and grow our programs. What more can you ask for!?” 

To date, two districts, Henrico County Public Schools (Virginia) and Fulton County Schools (Georgia), have earned the title of “Best Community for Music Education” for 20 consecutive years. 

The SupportMusic Merit Award, an honor given to individual schools for their administrative and educator efforts to help students realize their full potential through music learning, has recognized hundreds of individual schools over the past seven years. 

As a six-time winner of the SupportMusic Merit Award, Randy Raab of East Hanover school in New Jersey, says that winning the award has “Opened my school district’s eyes to efforts of the NAMM Foundation in promoting music in the schools. Because of this, they now send me to the NAMM Show in Anaheim every year. There, I scout out new products (both musical and show-related) as well as learn new technologies and methods for enhancing each students’ musical experience, both in the classroom and on the stage. It is because of NAMM–and my passion for making learning fun–that my program continues to grow and improve.” 

Alice Brown of Career Academy in Indiana, a three-time SMMA winner, shared, “We are thrilled to have received the SupportMusic Merit Award for the third year in a row. Our music program has grown tremendously over the past several years. The instrumental music program, in particular, started with less than 20 students five years ago and now has over 215 actively participating and engaged student musicians! The power of music and what it does for our students’ lives is amazing. The passion and dedication of our students in the music program has driven its success, along with the support and backing of great administration, our board of directors, community members, and parents. Receiving the award not only validates that our music program is thriving and successful, but it helps recruitment by showing incoming families that this is a school and a program to join and support! We hope to continue receiving this acknowledgment for years to come and celebrate and share the power of music in our schools!” 

The designations will be 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 a 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.

Since its inception, over 2,000 schools and school districts have submitted a survey for evaluation. Based on survey responses in 2019, 623 school districts were recognized as Best Communities for Music Education, and 98 schools with the SupportMusic Merit Award. Past districts named a Best Community for Music Education included urban, suburban and rural districts. Schools which 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 by January 31, 2020, here.

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: Americans for the ArtsLeague of American OrchestrasJohn Lennon Educational Tour BusMr. Holland’s Opus FoundationMusic for AllMusic Teachers National AssociationNational Guild For Community Arts EducationYamaha Corporation of AmericaYoung Audiences; and Save The Music Foundation.