Newark Board of Education’s Music Education Program Receives Best Communities for Music Education Award, Second Year in A Row


[Newark, NJ] – [April 20, 2021] Newark Board of Education has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. Now in its 22nd year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Newark Board of Education answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas. Receiving this honor for the second year in a row, the Newark Board of Education is one out of 40 New Jersey school districts earning overall recognition.

Margaret El, Director of Visual & Performing Arts within the district states “Music education really taps into student’s humanity and improves student academic achievement.” When it comes to the importance of Music Education, she believes “It helps to foster creativity and when you think of ensembles, it helps to develop teamwork. When we think of a well-rounded education, music education helps students grow their self-esteem.”

Since the passage by Congress in 2015 of the “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)” and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many school districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs and found that in this time of a national pandemic, provides a valuable way to keep students engaged in school. ESSA provides designated funding for well-rounded educational opportunities through Title IV Part A Student Academic Success and Achievement grants. NAMM Foundation research has revealed that these grants are being widely used by school districts to address instructional gaps in access to music and arts education.

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also to attend college as well. Everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.

During a year in which the ways of teaching and learning has changed, music education took on the brunt of maintaining a sense of community within music programs to assist in keeping children engaged during the challenges of this pandemic. Tasked with the challenges of attempting to teach with and play instruments with mask requirements, K-12 music teachers have had to find creative solutions to make music come alive.

This recognition from The NAMM Foundation comes at a time where the district has been proactive in terms of continuing music education throughout the pandemic. “We’ve been able to continually increase the number of music educators in the district and music education has been able to continue during virtual instruction.” says Margaret El.

About The NAMM Foundation
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,400 members around the world. The foundation advances 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