As schools across the nation regain their cadence with the return to in-person learning and the reduction in mandates, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation is pleased to celebrate the list of Best Communities for Music Education (BCME). Now in its 23rd year, the 2022 Best Communities for Music Education program has recognized 738 school districts and 80 schools across 44 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 educators, administrators, and communities truly rallied to support and sustain music education through a period of intense change and adaptation. These districts and schools persevered in serving their students and communities and assured that music education was part of curriculum offerings,” shares Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “We applaud the commitment and efforts of all music educators, school administrators, and community members in providing students the opportunity to explore their creativity through music.”
This year's awards program was designed to celebrate schools and districts adapting, innovating, and persevering in the face of change. 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 address the inroads and setbacks impacted by the pandemic, as well as goals for equity and access to music education for all students and national standards for music education in a short, qualitative survey.
"The 2022 Best Communities for Music Education is an opportunity to celebrate music programs and honors the resilience and dedication to keeping music as part of a well-rounded education as we all adapt to a new educational landscape," says Christopher Johnson of the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas. “If there was one common theme to be taken from all submissions, it’s that schools and districts found ways to sustain music education and student engagement in even the most challenging of circumstances.”
Collaboration and innovation were also common themes of districts named “Best Communities,” along with reliance on science-led studies supporting student health and mitigation strategies. Sharon Allen, Lead Arts Teacher at Chatham County Schools in Pittsboro, North Carolina, says that for their district, “When other programs in our area did not allow singing and playing instruments due to COVID concerns, our district administrators went before the Board of Education to present the data from the NFHS aerosol study (National Federation of State High School Associations) and demonstrate playing/singing with adaptive masks and instrument bell covers. As a result, the board approved students singing and playing in music classes following the recommendations of the aerosol study and provided the necessary PPE. I believe this action helped maintain student enrollments in music programs.”
In 2020, The National Federation of State High School Associations brought together a number of performing arts organizations, including The NAMM Foundation, to examine aerosol rates produced by wind instrumentalists, vocalists, and even actors and how quickly those aerosol rates accumulate in a space. The study included several follow-up studies, including flow visualization, aerosol and CO2 measurements, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to understand the different components that can lead to transmission risk from musical performance and risk mitigation. Read more here.
For the majority of music educators, music remained vital to core curriculum and as part of their community. Jenny Allen, Department Chair, Elementary Strings at Gilbert Public Schools in Gilbert, Arizona shares, “During COVID, the district did not waver in its support for music education. In 2020, prior to the pandemic, the district increased funding for the music department. These funds were needed to purchase instruments and music. It is my belief that the Best Communities Award designation solidified what the community had always known. We are an outstanding district for music education. This award showed everyone it was indeed true.”
Dr. Jon Moyer, Intermediate Band Director of sixteen-year winner Central York School District in York, Pennsylvania, says that “Music education is a part of the CULTURE of our school district. Through the support of the community, we consistently have high enrollment in music classes and performing groups while also sending a large number of student leaders to auditioned ensembles, festivals, and contests. Our families express their excitement about the opportunities that great music education can provide and are eager to get – and keep – their students involved in our programs.”
In addition to the 738 districts receiving Best Communities for Music Education recognition, 80 individual schools across the nation are being awarded the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA), which recognizes support for school-based music education programs.
“Even through COVID, our administrators did everything they could to make sure our music programs kept running strong,” shares Adam Scheele, Director of Bands at Central High School District of Westosha in Salem, Wisconsin. “Extra funds were given to the music programs in order for us to use proper mitigation strategies in our classroom and at concerts, and new instruments were purchased so that students no longer had to share school-owned instruments. This proved vital to keeping students engaged at a time when it was most needed.”
Kate Margrave, Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, affirms that strong support from both administrators and students has led to a stable program. “[Our] administrative support of the music program shows how much they care about these passions of our students. The students are resilient, and retention after COVID was high. Students recognize the importance of music education in their lives and thrive on it.”
Since its inception, over 2,000 schools and school districts have submitted a survey for evaluation. Based on survey responses in 2021, 686 school districts were recognized as Best Communities for Music Education, and 80 schools with the SupportMusic Merit Award. Past districts named a 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.