The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation has recognized 623 school districts in 41 states as among the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME), including 18 Connecticut school districts.
Now in its 20th year, the program honors schools and school districts for outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders and their support for music education as part of the core curriculum.
“It’s worth noting that we have some school communities that have received this recognition year-after-year. A few have been there for 20 years,” said Mary Luehrsen of The NAMM Foundation. “But, every year, new schools and districts are upping their game when it comes to music and the arts, often despite budget and curriculum pressures.”
In cooperation with researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, the BCME program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction. For the 20th anniversary, a new survey was developed for use in the selection process under the advisory of music education leaders from across the nation.
Connecticut districts earning a place on the list include Bethel, Bloomfield, Bristol, Canton, Cheshire, Danbury, Ellington, Fairfield, Glastonbury, Granby, Newington, Newtown, Regional School District 8, Simsbury, Southington, Torrington, West Hartford, Westport, and Wilton. Two years ago, 12 school districts in Connecticut were named to the list.
In addition, two Connecticut schools – both in New Haven – received Support Music designation. The Fair Haven Pre K-8 School and the John C. Daniels Interdistrict Magnet School of International Communication were among 98 schools nationwide to receive the designation, acknowledged for their commitment to music education. There were no Connecticut school on last year’s list.
Since the passage by Congress in 2015 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many schools districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs, NAMM officials pointed out.
Evidence continues to accelerate around the benefits of music education for students, schools, and communities. A 2018 report found that music students do better in English, math, and science than their peers without music; and more music and art equals fewer dropouts and a reduced number of suspensions.
“Even with compounding evidence of the benefits and importance of music education, many music education programs are not adequately funded and struggling for adequate resources for their proper place in the curriculum,” confirmed Luehrsen. “The Best Community districts and SupportMusic schools show what can be done when teachers, school and community leaders, and parents all agree that music is essential and not optional as a learning force that must be available to all students. We dream of the day when all districts aspire to earn this distinction.”
Over the past 20 years, the number of school districts gaining BCME recognition has grown, from fewer than 100 in 1999 to more than 600 today. BCME designation has helped raise local awareness of quality music programs from coast to coast and has assisted communities in securing funds for music programs threatened by budget cuts.
The NAMM Foundation is a non-profit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its 10,400 members around the world. The NAMM Foundation works to advance active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs.