Application Period for the Best Communities for Music Education Awards Now Open

SBO Staff • News • November 1, 2021

As schools across the nation welcome the return of the joyous sounds of music programs, districts and individual schools have the opportunity to celebrate the resilience of music education and gain recognition for their efforts through The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education awards program. Now in its 23rd year, the Best Communities for Music Education (district level) and the SupportMusic Merit Award (school level) offers national 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 a well-rounded education.

“We are profoundly grateful for the ongoing commitment of teachers, parents, students, and school administrators and leaders through the Covid period to assure that music learning continued to be a lifeline and pathway for learning for students,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the NAMM Foundation. “In this recovery year, I strongly urge all school districts to apply for NAMM Foundation recognition. The survey can be a meaningful self-assessment that can help reset and redevelop a music program post-Covid, as well as celebrate the ongoing accomplishments and dedication to music in your district or school.”

This year’s awards program is designed to celebrate a year of schools and districts adapting and innovating in the face of change. Researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, in conjunction with The NAMM Foundation, have 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 21-2022 Best Communities for Music Education survey is a valuable tool for administrators, teachers, and communities to use to find opportunities to enhance and strengthen their programs. Most importantly, it’s 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. “This survey will offer administrators a quantitative opportunity to demonstrate their whole community’s support for music education.”

Michael Stone, Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts Department at the Bakersfield City School District, a nine-time BCME winner, offers, “I would encourage any music teacher or school administrator to complete the BCME Survey as a way to assess your music education program!  The application is easy and not time-consuming.  Data can be provided to you by your principals or district office support staff, making completion of the application very user-friendly. Our first year to apply, we were not selected. However, the feedback we were provided helped us to address weaknesses in our music education program back at that time, and we were able to improve our music programs moving forward.  The next year, we met the standard and have been selected for nine years in a row.  Our community takes much pride in our selection over multiple years.”

Over the past two decades, the awards program has celebrated community-level achievements and has served as a catalyst to rally and expand music education programs. This year, even in the face of COVID-19 initiated changes, administrators and instructors continue to underscore the importance of music education for all students and their joyous return to music programs.

Mathew Becker of Memorial Junior High School of Lansing, Illinois, shares, “Student musicians have been ecstatic to be back in school and, specifically, to be learning and making music again in-person with their peers. From a community parade with the marching band last spring to our summer concert and general music performing on the first day, students and their families are overjoyed to resume this long-awaited re-engagement with the fine and performing arts…The energy of student excitement, engagement, and continuous growth missing from the school buildings has brought each music room back to life!  The district music team along with staff and administrators has been thrilled to see students back in person for classes and rehearsals, observing their resilience and perseverance as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times as a community.”

“Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) has returned to in-person instruction, with a virtual learning program option…Students’ appetite for music instruction continues to be a vibrant part of our curricular offerings as participation in elective courses have nearly bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. The music program continues to be a point of pride for the students, staff, and Baltimore County community,” shares Dr. Brian Schneckenburger, Supervisor of Baltimore County Public Schools.

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 ranging from elementary to middle and high schools.

District officials, music educators, and school staff in the domestic United States are invited to complete the short survey by January 31, 2022, by visiting

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  Mr. Holland’s Opus FoundationMusic for AllLeague of American OrchestrasMusic Teachers National AssociationNational Guild For Community Arts EducationSave The Music FoundationYamaha Corporation of America; and Young Audiences.

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