Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C., was among 120 individual schools given the Support Music Merit Award (SMMA) and 388 school districts designated as Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) 2015 by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation and the University of Kansas.
Now in its 16th year, the SMMA and BCME program spotlights districts and schools for outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of the curriculum. The SMMA and BCME programs are evaluated on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards and access to music instruction.
“I love music, but transferring that love to others takes an entire community effort,” said Kenneth Dickerson, music director at Theodore Roosevelt. “What distinguishes my program is that our principal, guidance counsellor, the entire administrative team and the community supports our program greatly [and] kids are thriving.”
For example, unlike other schools, Dickerson said, Theodore Roosevelt’s music classes are integrated into the normal school day—not held during lunch periods or after school.
Unfortunately, too many of the country’s 13,588 school districts and individual schools are out of tune when it comes to promoting the arts and music education, advocates say. According to the White House’s Turnaround Arts program, for example, 1.3 million elementary school students still have no access to music classes.
The gap is particularly alarming in light of a recent report by the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities’ Turnaround Arts program and research released earlier this year showing significant correlation between music education and overall student success. Northwestern University brain researcher Dr. Nina Kraus released a number of studies showing that participation in music education programs helps improve brain function and sparks language development.
“The new research validates the relationships between student success and access to music education,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the NAMM Foundation. “Ensuring that every child has access to music in schools requires commitment by students, teachers, and those who determine school budgets. We commend the districts and schools that have earned the Best Community designation this year. They join with so many that believe, as we do, that there is a vital link between do-re-mi and the ABCs.”
Dickerson said he definitely sees a difference in his children. “Music has a way of getting you engaged, of challenging you and setting discipline in your life,” he said, adding that it also helps with math and other analytical functions. “Music delves deeper into the human condition and helps us analyze what’s going on in society.”
According to NAMM, in addition to being a source of community pride, the BCME and SMMA recognitions have raised local awareness of quality music programs and assisted communities in securing funds for music programs threatened by budget cuts.
A complete list of districts and schools receiving Best Community and Support Music designations from the NAMM Foundation in 2015 can be found at this link.