NAMM Foundation Seeks Best Communities for Music Education

Mike Lawson • News • October 19, 2016

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School districts and schools with an exemplary commitment to music education curriculum are encouraged to apply for a national distinction as a Best Communities for Music Education.

Presented by The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) and its counterpart, the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA) recognize the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, students and community leaders at the district and individual school level who share in the common goal to ensure access to music for all students in the classroom. 

”The Best Communities for Music Education program serves as an affirmation to schools, their districts, and surrounding community for commitment to creating well-rounded curriculum opportunities for all students through musical instruction,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of The NAMM Foundation. “Music education can offer intellectual tools and experiences that last a lifetime, and for many of these children, their first and often only exposure to music making will be in school. That’s why now, more than ever, the programs and their respective communities that assure music education is essential and not optional for all students deserve our gratitude and recognition.”

Now in the program’s 18th year, the Best Communities for Music Education (district level) and SupportMusic Merit Award (school level) offer national honors and visibility for district and school music programs which support music education in their curriculum. Through a school or district submitted survey process, the awards program evaluates responses about funding, staffing of qualified teachers, standards, curriculum, community support, participation, facilities, and other factors that affect access to comprehensive music education. Once the responses are verified, The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas reviews the survey data and offers this designation to districts and schools that demonstrate a high commitment to music education.  

For many of the past honorees, being named as one of the Best Communities for Music Education can attract new students and provide important visibility and awareness of music education. “This designation reaffirms that our music program is supported by the community, parents and school.  Students take pride in knowing they are part of something like this, and our numbers keep growing,” shared Susan Starkweather Miller, Grants Manager of Albion Central School District in Albion, New York and a nine-time consecutive Best Communities winner. “More parents join our boosters and assist with additional music activities.  The community supports and collaborates with our music department for musical events.”

“Being named a BCME was the catalyst for us to gain an expanded music education budget, all while increasing community visibility and support,” said Lonnie Stover, Supervisor of Music at Sycamore Community Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. “It was a wonderful recognition of the efforts of our music staff to provide the highest quality of music education possible and further provided validation of the quality of programs we provide for our students.”

The 2017 BCME and SMMA awards come on the heels of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which defines music as part of a “well-rounded education.” Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2015, the new law, scheduled for implementation in the 2017-2018 school year, gives state policy makers and local districts more opportunities to support music education under Title I and Title IV funding. 

In 2016, over 2,000 schools and school districts participated in the program. Based on survey responses, 476 districts were honored with a Best Communities designation and 118 schools with a SupportMusic Merit Award. The districts named a BCME included urban, suburban and rural districts. Schools receiving the SMMA 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, 2017 by visiting

In conducting the annual survey, The NAMM Foundation is joined by advisory organizations in the fields of music and education: Americans for the ArtsLeague of American OrchestrasJohn Lennon Educational Tour BusMr. Holland’s Opus FoundationMusic for AllMusic Teachers National AssociationNational Guild For Community Arts EducationYamaha Corporation of America;Young Audiences; and VH1 Save The Music Foundation.

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