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 20th 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.

“Now more than ever, opportunities for all students to learn and grow with music is important as it helps students connect with school life and the community, which in turn supports their well-being and overall academic success,” said Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “The Best Communities for Music Education program celebrates districts, schools, parents and communities for assuring that music education is part of the school day and available to all children.”

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. 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 19 consecutive years.

Dr. Amy Cashwell, Superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools, shares that the school district takes “great pride in our 19 years as a Best Community for Music Education. It is an important way to honor the dedication of our K-12 music educators and the impact they have on students’ lives. While we have tremendous support for music education from our community, School Board and administration, the designation helps reinforce this commitment. The recognition brings public attention to the positive power of the arts and has been a factor in getting increased arts funding.”

The SupportMusic Merit Award is another designation which has been given for six years, and in that time, has recognized numerous individual schools for their administrative and educator efforts to help students realize their full potential through music learning. For Penny Purdy, guitar instructor at Athens Middle School in Athens, Ohio, the award has come with many perks, one being job security. “While many other departments in our district have seen cuts in their staff, the music department has remained steady,” she says. “We have amazing community support that increases with the announcement of our SupportMusic Merit Award; it is truly a career saver.”

For Assistant Principal, George Zografos at Rosa International Middle School in New Jersey, the award has been a rallying point for unsure students: “The recognition really helps spotlight our music program in the community and helps students who might be on the fence about playing music to join our music program.  Winning the award has been a point of pride for our school and district, and we look forward to the possible recognition in the future. At Rosa, we believe in educating the whole child, and having programs like music and the arts help increase academic performance.”

For the twentieth anniversary, the national survey was redesigned by leaders in music education today, including: survey administrator, Dr. Christopher Johnson, University of Kansas; Dr. Carlos Abril, Professor of Music Education and Director of Undergraduate Music Education at the Frost School of Music (University of Miami); Music Therapy and Music Education Professor Alice-Ann Darrow (Florida State University); Dr. Glenn E. Nierman (University of Nebraska-Lincoln); Denese Odegaard, National Association for Music Education (NAfME) President (2016-2018) and Fargo (North Dakota) Public Schools Performing Arts Curriculum Specialist; as well as Dr. Rebecca L. Tast, Assistant Professor of Music Education (Texas State University).

Contributor Dr. Abril has conducted extensive research that focuses on sociocultural issues in music education, music education policy, and music perception. Dr. Abril shares that “this survey is an outstanding tool for identifying and honoring school districts that are fully committed to providing quality music education programs for all students who have an interest in studying music. It is carefully crafted to identify criteria that encompass availability, access, and excellence in school music education.”

Another survey designer, Denese Odegaard affirms, “The survey provides districts a picture of what makes an effective and strong music program. Now that the survey is updated, there are even more areas to use in reflecting on the quality and depth of your music program. When awarded Best Communities for Music Education, the parents, administration, school board and community members look positively upon the music program and value what it has to offer to students. It brings attention to the music program in a positive manner.”  

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 2018, 583 school districts were recognized as Best Communities for Music Education, and 135 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 this survey by January 31, 2019 by visiting

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 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.

About The NAMM Foundation

The NAMM Foundation is a non-profit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its 10,300 members around the world. The NAMM Foundation works to advance active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. For more information about The NAMM Foundation, please visit