BCME Roundtable: Winning Communities

Mike Lawson • ArchivesChoral • October 11, 2011

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In April of this year, the NAMM Foundation awarded a record-breaking 179 districts with the “Best Communities for Music Education” (BCME) distinction.  The BCME survey is a nationwide search for communities whose programs exemplify a strong commitment to music education. Established in 1999, BCME recognizes and celebrates schools, their administrators, teachers, board members, parents and students for their support of music education and their efforts to assure access to all students as part of the core curriculum.

SBO recently reached out to five representatives from this year’s winning communities to get a feel for how their programs have been impacted by this designation, what it means to their school music programs, and how they plan to use this tool to continue to promote the school bands and orchestras in their areas.

David Branson

I have known about the BCME project for many years. As the fine arts coordinator for the school district, I decided to apply our district for consideration four years ago. I felt that our district offers a great deal of quality instruction and opportunities in music for our students and teachers, and being recognized as a BCME would be beneficial to our school district in many ways.

Being named now four years in a row to the BCME has elevated the profile and status of our music program. Our community at large and our school district now value the program at a higher level than prior to the BCME recognition. The teachers take pride in this recognition as it is because of their fine teaching that our district is one of the BCME in the nation.

There is good advocacy value that comes to a school or a district from the BCME program. It is much more difficult for district or school leaders to cut programs that are nationally recognized. As long as the BCME maintains its high standards for receiving this award then the advocacy value will remain in place.


Elon Jamison

I’ve repeatedly heard about BCME via NAMM, MENC, SBO, and so on, and have considered applying multiple times in the past, but just haven’t because of the time involved. This time around though, we really felt our district was a strong candidate and shouldn’t let the opportunity slip away. So with help from my music colleagues and some folks in central office we got the data together and made the application. We knew, or at least hoped, we’d be a strong candidate as a community because we’ve had amazing results recently (Marching Band winning state championship six out of the last seven years, High School Wind Ensemble performing at Michigan Music Conference, et cetera), and because our kids come from very modest means, we’re a community that does a lot with very little.

Mostly, this distinction has been public and national verification of what we already knew, that we have a great group of teachers/parents/kids doing amazing things in a little community with very modest resources, and we’re glad to be recognized for that. We’re currently very well-supported by all stake-holders in the community, hence part of why we were selected, but should that ever erode a little bit, this status will help us in fighting any attacks on the music program.


Robert Andrews

I heard about BCME through NAMM’s website and decided to apply since we have exemplary music programs in our school district. Being named a Best Community for Music Education has validated our position that Gwinnett County Public Schools’ music and music technology programs and music teachers are world-class and are recognized at the local, state, and national levels.  Our Superintendent/CEO and Board of Education appreciate this recognition and continue to support all of the music programs in the 133 schools in our district.

This is a worthwhile endeavor that gives school music programs and teachers the recognition that they so richly deserve.

We posted the BCME designation on the GCPS Fine Arts website and sent it to our Communication and Media Relations Department for publication.  Music teachers have used the designation extensively at the local school level to promote their music programs.  As a result, we have received favorable press and positive remarks from educators, parents, and community members at large regarding this prestigious designation.


Scott Barnes

I learned of the BCME project through an announcement from MENC many years ago, and filled out the application for our district.  I decided to apply because this project recognizes the overall support of music education in a community (scope and quality of programs, building and district support, community support, etc.) Over the years, the Edmonds School District has been recognized as BCME community four times.

Being named a Best Community in Music Education school district has had a strong impact on our educational system. The recognition is a source of pride for the outstanding teachers and students in our district. It provides a teaching tool and leverage point for our district decision makers and community members.  When awarded, we have presented the certificate to our school board to share the recognition, drawing attention to the excellent programs that we have.  In a society obsessed with accountability, this award provides recognition to our overall music program.  Three years ago, the BCME recognition was instrumental in keeping our 5th grade instrumental program off of the budget chopping block.

One of the key pieces of the BCME program is that it focuses on a district’s full music program (and support for arts education). Oftentimes individual performance groups are singled out for their excellence and accomplishments, but too often what is lost is that these outstanding groups are part of any overall system.  Our goal is to provide all students a quality K-12 music education with strong connections to the community.  The BCME program recognizes this holistic approach.


J. Howard Baxter

For quite a few years I saw notifications either in professional journals or through communications from the NAMM Foundation, but never took the time to seriously look at the process. In 2008, I looked over the application and received support from our superintendent to apply. We looked at this opportunity as both a chance to review as well as to promote our program.

The outstanding music teachers in Abington work tirelessly to provide an excellent music program for the students. They hold high standards for their instructional performance. The national recognition provided by the NAMM Foundation is acknowledgement for their achievements.

Abington is a wonderful community in which to live and work. The school district administration, with the support of the Board of School Directors, strives to provide our students in grades kindergarten through 12 – even in difficult economic times – with a well-rounded education that includes the arts, as well as rigorous academics. As mentioned earlier, the music teachers strive for excellence in all of their musical endeavors.

NAMM awarded us with stickers of the recognition, which teachers have distributed throughout the district; we can use all they can supply. We also include the logo on our web page with links to NAMM and in all of our school concert programs, including Pennsylvania Music Educators Association events that we have hosted. In the past, we also received publicity about the BCME from local news outlets.

David Branson

Fine Arts/Music Administrator

Washoe County School District

Reno, Nev.

David currently serves as the Administrator for Fine arts/music for the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada, where he is responsible for coordinating all music and arts activities for the district. Prior to his current assignment, David taught several schools in the WCSD. Before moving to Reno, David served as music coordinator for the Livermore Unified school district in California as well as teaching Band, Jazz, Orchestra and Choir. David is a past Western Division President for MENC; he has served as a state president in Nevada and has had various positions on section and state boards for the past 30 years.


Elon J. Jamison

Director of Bands/Performing

Arts Coordinator

Ferndale High School

Ferndale, Mich.

Elon Jamison is currently in his 14th year teaching music in the Ferndale (Mich.) Public Schools, and eighth year as director of bands at Ferndale High School and K-12 Performing Arts Coordinator. Mr. Jamison was selected as Teacher of the Year for Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) District 4 in 2010, and Teacher of the Year for Ferndale High School in 2008. He also just finished two years as Vice-President of Solo/Ensemble Festival for District 4, and is beginning a two-year stint as VP of Band/Orchestra Festival.


Robert E. Andrews

Fine Arts Director

Gwinnett County Public Schools

Gwinnett County, Ga.

Robert E. Andrews serves as the Fine Arts director of Gwinnett County Public Schools, where he is responsible for developing, revising, implementing, and improving a cohesive K-12 program in dance, music, theatre arts, and visual arts in the context of all instruction in the school district. This includes working with approximately 500 fine arts teachers (262 music educators) to ensure that quality instruction is provided in all fine arts areas. He has taught music at all levels during his career of 38 years.


Scott Barnes

Manager of Visual and Performing Arts

Edmonds School District

Lynwood, Wash.

Scott Barnes is the manager of Visual and Performing Arts for the Edmonds School District, and vice president of the Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA). He was a high school band director for 17 years in Oregon and Washington before going into school administration. He continues to be an active performer, clinician and strong advocate for music education in the Pacific Northwest.


J. Howard Baxter

Supervisor of Music/Coordinator Elementary Art

Abington School District

Abington, Pa.

Since August of 1992 Mr. Baxter has served as the Supervisor of Music/Coordinator Elementary Art for the Abington School District in Abington, Pennsylvania. Formerly he served as Music Coordinator in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Prior to moving into an administrative role, Mr. Baxter was a band director and choral director in Alabama.

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