Music Makes Us turns up volume on music education in public schools
by Joan Brasher
At a recent press conference at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced the launch of Music Makes Us: The Nashville Music Education Project, a partnership among the mayor’s office, the Music City Music Council and the Nashville Public Education Foundation.
Music Makes Us aims to overhaul music education in Nashville’s public schools, elevating it to what one might expect from a city bearing the moniker “Music City.”
Thanks to support from donors and nonprofits who have a passion for bringing excellence to Metro Nashville Public Schools’ music curriculum, Music Makes Us will offer innovative contemporary-music classes focused on songwriting and composition, rock band and hip-hop performance, and technology-based production, such as recording and DJ/remixing. That’s quite a jump from the traditional public school mainstays of marching band, orchestra and choir, which, incidentally, also will benefit from the program.
“Through Music Makes Us, Music City will become the standard bearer of what music education can be and should be in public education,” Dean said. “Support for this innovative program is coming from both the private and public sectors, and our partnership with the Music City Music Council and the Nashville Public Education Foundation will help ensure long-term sustainability.
Nashville has the largest concentration of the music industry of any city in the United States, and we will be tapping into this resource of talented individuals, but I also encourage all Nashvillians to do what they can to help Music Makes Us be a success,” he said.
Drawing on the city’s wealth of songwriters, musicians, performers and industry executives, MNPS teachers will have opportunities to receive mentorship and training from Music City heavyweights, and students will interact with musicians and perform at live music venues. Even students who don’t plan to pursue music professionally will benefit — studies show that students who are exposed to music education academically outperform their peers who are not.
Nancy Shapiro, vice president of member services at The Recording Academy, chaired the Music Education Committee of the Music City Music Council and has helped lead the development of Music Makes Us over the past several years.
“Music Makes Us has such a broad base of support all across our community,” Shapiro said. “The music industry has been advocating for decades, and now everyone is aligned and invested in this important initiative.”
An advisory board is in the process of fine-tuning the components of the programming as well as hiring a director, a coordinator and additional full-time staff for what will be Metro Nashville Public Schools’ first-ever Office of Music Education. An audit of the school district is being conducted to determine what music facilities, equipment and instruments are already on hand. Local musicians are being contacted to serve as mentors and visiting lecturers.
Music industry stakeholders such as Gaylord Entertainment and the Gibson Foundation, as well as philanthropists including Martha Ingram and Mike Curb, are already lending their support, eager to see the program pay off in a whole new generation of Nashville musicians, singers, songwriters and producers.
The Nashville Public Education Foundation, formerly known as the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, was established in 2003 to develop and support programs such as Music Makes Us that build broader and deeper community engagement in public education. Thanks to the vision of the late Nelson Andrews, a longtime member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust and a civic leader, the organization has been instrumental in engaging community ownership of Nashville’s public schools.
“The Nashville Public Education Foundation supports important programs in partnership with Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Metro Nashville Public Schools,” said Katie Welsh, foundation staff member.