Nashville Students Will Now Rock (and Rap, DJ and More) in School

Nashville is widely acclaimed for its music,and now the city is hoping to develop its musical spirit in generations of schoolchildren. With some high-powered help from locally-based stars, Nashville looks primed to bring contemporary music education into classrooms for years to come.

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Beyond the French Horn

Orchestras and choirs have long had a place in Nashville schools. But under a progressive new program that was recently announced by Mayor Karl Dean, students may soon be learning country, rock and rap music as well. The program, which is known as Music Makes Us, is intended to draw upon Nashville's vibrant music culture and resources.

The program will include music education as it's currently known, with instruction in performance and music theory. Also included will be education in music skills more broadly relevant to Nashville's music industry. For example, courses may cover DJing, songwriting and music production.

High Profile Support

Nashville's music community has a sincere interest in supporting music education in its school system. As Nashville schools have struggled to maintain non-core subjects like music during difficult financial times, they've benefited from this support. The Country Music Association, for example, has provided $5 million in instruments over the past seven years. This includes donations following the destructive flood last year.

The Music Makes Us program itself is a direct result of a collaboration between the mayor's office and Nashville musicians. In 2009, a group known as the Music City Music Council was formed to develop the roots of Nashville's culture. The council originally included musicians such as Jack White, Amy Grant and Emmylou Harris, though local business leaders have since taken their place. Furthermore, the music community has provided local students with the most unique resource they possess: a plethora of rehearsal and performance spaces.

Ambitious Goals

Nashville has 144 public schools serving approximately 75,000 students. In order to implement the ambitious Music Makes Us program, concrete details still need to be worked out. It begins with establishing a new music education office, with its own director and curriculum specialist. The total cost of the program is yet to be determined. The mayor is waiting on budget negotiations with the board of education, which will take place next year.

Yet the goal is to roll out the program for the fall of 2012. If that happens, there's hope that the program will do more than just train the next generation of Nashville musicians. Arts education has been shown to have positive effects on students in other academic areas. Test scores may rise and dropout rates may fall. If so, Nashville will be improving its school system simply by taking advantage of its energetic music culture.

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