NAMM Announces Best Communites for Music Education

BCMEThe National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) has revealed this year’s list of Best Communities for Music Education in the U.S.  The announcement was made during last week’s National Wanna Play Music Week celebration, an annual event which highlights the importance of music education programs in schools and promotes the benefits of playing music for people of all ages and skill levels.

This year’s survey recognizes a total of 174 school districts across 30 states for their commitment to providing music education for their students.  According to the NAMM Foundation, the “Best Communities” designation represents both a distinction worthy of pride and a call to action for local music education advocates to help preserve their current music education programs.

Teachers and school district administrators participated in a web-based survey to select this year’s winners.  Districts were measured across curricular and programmatic criteria, as well as public support of their music programs.

The complete list of Best Communities appears below, and can also be viewed online at

Abington School District Abington PA
Acalanes High School Lafayette CA
Albion Central School District Albion NY
Ann Arbor Public Schools Ann Arbor MI
Arlington Independent School District Arlington TX
Avon Lake City School District Avon Lake OH
Baldwinsville Central School District Baldwinsville NY
Baltimore County Public Schools Towson MD
Bay Shore Union Free School District Bay Shore NY
Bay Village City School District Bay Village OH
Beachwood City Schools Beachwood OH
Bedford Central School District Mount Kisco NY
Bedford Public Schools Temperance MI
Belmont Public Schools Belmont MA
Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School Franklin MA
Berea City School District Berea OH
Bergenfield Public Schools Bergenfield NJ
Bethel Public Schools Bethel CT
Boerne Independent School District Boerne TX
Boyertown Area School District Boyertown PA
Brighton Central School District Rochester NY
Canfield Local Schools Canfield OH
Central Cambria School District Ebensburg PA
Central York School District York PA
Chesapeake Public Schools Chesapeake VA
Cheshire Public Schools Cheshire CT
Clarence Central School Clarence NY
Clark County School District Las Vegas NV
Clarkstown Central School District New City NY
Clovis Municipal Schools Clovis NM
Cobb County School District Marietta GA
Colonial Elementary School Plymouth Meeting PA
Conestoga Valley School District Lancaster PA
Connetquot Central School District Bohemia NY
Cottonwood Elementary School Wright WY
Cumberland Valley School District Mechanicsburg PA
Cuyahoga Heights Local School District Cleveland OH
David Douglas School District 40 Portland OR
Decorah Community School District Decorah IA
Denton Independent School District Denton TX
Dover Area School District Dover PA
East Meadow Union Free School District Westbury NY
Edmonds School District Lynnwood WA
Ephrata Area School District Ephrata PA
Fargo Public Schools Fargo ND
Fayetteville-Manlius Central Schools Manlius NY
Fort Bend Independent School District Sugar Land TX
Fulton County Schools Atlanta GA
Gotha Middle School Windermere FL
Great Falls Public Schools Great Falls MT
Great Neck UFSD Great Neck NY
Greenwich Public Schools Greenwich CT
Guilderland Central School District Guilderland NY
Gwinnett County Public Schools Suwanee GA
Harford County Public Schools Bel Air MD
Henrico County Public Schools Richmond VA
Herricks Union Free School District No. 9 New Hyde Park NY
Hershey Middle School Hershey PA
Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools Woodmere NY
Hidalgo Independent School District Hidalgo TX
Hilliard City School District Hilliard OH
Hilton Central School District Hilton NY
Homewood City Schools Homewood AL
Honoka’a High and Intermediate School Honoka’a HI
Hopewell Valley Regional School District Pennington NJ
Hortonville Area School District Hortonville WI
Hudson School District Hudson WI
Huntsville Independent School District Huntsville TX
Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District Bedford TX
Independent School District 279 – Osseo Area Schools Maple Grove MN
Indiana Area School District Indiana PA
Irvine Unified School District Irvine CA
Island Trees Public Schools U.S.F.D. Levittown NY
Jenison Public Schools Jenison MI
Jericho Union Free School District Jericho NY
Johnson City Central School District Johnson City NY
Katy Independent School District Katy TX
Klein Independent School District Klein TX
Lawrence Township School District Lawrenceville NJ
Lee County Schools Opelika AL
LeRoy Central School LeRoy NY
Liverpool Central School District Liverpool NY
Longwood Central School District Yaphank NY
Loudoun County Public Schools Ashburn VA
Lower Merion School District Ardmore PA
Lynn Public Schools Lynn MA
Manhasset Public Schools Manhasset NY
Massapequa Union Free School District #23 Massapequa NY
Memphis City Schools Memphis TN
Metuchen Public Schools Metuchen NJ
Midway Independent School District Waco TX
Millard Public Schools Omaha NE
Milpitas High School Milpitas CA
Mineola Union Free School District Mineola NY
Montgomery County Public Schools Christiansburg VA
Monticello Central School District Monticello NY
Mount Lebanon School District Pittsburgh PA
Nanuet Union Free School District Nanuet NY
New Hartford Central School District New Hartford NY
Newfield Elementary School Newfield NY
Newtown Public Schools Newtown CT
North Allegheny School District Pittsburgh PA
North Babylon Union Free School District North Babylon NY
Northport East Northport Union Free School District Northport NY
Northwest Independent School District Justin TX
Northwestern Elementary New Tripoli PA
Nutley Public School District Nutley NJ
Oceanside Public School District Oceanside NY
Olmsted Falls City Schools Olmsted Falls OH
Open Door Christian Schools Elyria OH
Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School St. Johnsville NY
Osage County R-II Schools Linn MO
Paramus Board of Education Paramus NJ
Pasadena Independent School District Pasadena TX
Pasco School District #1 Pasco WA
Pendleton School District 16R Pendleton OR
Pennsbury School District Fairless Hills PA
Pequannock Township School District Pompton Plains NJ
Perrysburg Exempted Village Schools Perrysburg OH
Pine City Public Schools (Independent School District #578) Pine City MN
Pittsford Central School District Pittsford NY
Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Placentia CA
Plano Independent School District Plano TX
Plymouth Canton Educational Park Canton MI
Plymouth Community High School Plymouth IN
Port Jefferson School District Port Jefferson NY
Potsdam Central School District Potsdam NY
Princeton City Schools Cincinnati OH
Propel East Turtle Creek PA
Putnam Valley Central School District Putnam Valley NY
Quaker Valley School District Sewickley PA
Randolph Township School District Randolph NJ
Ridgewood Public Schools Ridgewood NJ
Roanoke County Public Schools Roanoke VA
Royalton-Hartland Central School District Middleport NY
Rush-Henrietta Central School District West Henrietta NY
San Diego Unified School District San Diego CA
Santa Monica-Malibu USD Santa Monica CA
Sayville Public Schools W Sayville NY
Scarsdale Public Schools Scarsdale NY
School District of La Crosse La Crosse WI
Shaker Heights City School District Shaker Heights OH
Shaw Visual and Performing Arts Elementary Saint Louis MO
Simsbury Public Schools Simsbury CT
South Huntington Union Free School District Huntington Station NY
Spokane Public Schools Spokane WA
State College Area School District State College PA
Stow-Munroe Falls City School District Stow OH
Syosset Central School District Syosset NY
The School Board of Polk County, Florida Bartow FL
The School District of Hillsborough County, Florida Tampa FL
The Sycamore Community School District Cincinnati OH
The Troy School District Troy MI
Torrington Public Schools Torrington CT
Township of Union Public Schools Union NJ
Trinity Area School District Washington PA
Virginia Beach City Public Schools Virginia Beach VA
Wappingers Central School District Wappingers Falls NY
Washington County Public Schools Hagerstown MD
Washoe County School District Reno NV
Wayland Public Schools Wayland MA
Webb Bridge Middle School Alpharetta GA
Webster Central School District Webster NY
West Genesee Central School District Camillus, NY
West Hartford Public Schools West Hartford CT
West Irondequoit Central School District Rochester NY
West Lafayette Community School Corporation West Lafayette IN
West Milford Township Public Schools West Milford NJ
Westborough Public Schools Westborough MA
Weston Public Schools Weston MA
Willard R-II Schools Willard MO
Williamsport Area School District Williamsport PA
Williamsville Central School District East Amherst NY
Woodside School Woodside CA

License Plates In Support of the Arts

Arts license platesOne of our main goals at TakeLessons is to inspire a generation through music.  In addition to the proven mental, physical and emotional benefits of music lessons, music and arts programs provide children with an essential outlet for creativity and inspiration.  However, many states are cutting funding for the arts, decreasing accessibility to these programs among students.

Here in California, the California Arts Council is attempting to combat this issue by encouraging residents to support the arts through the purchase of a personalized Arts license plate.  According to the CAC, sales and renewals of these plates have raised over $20 million for California arts since they were first made available in 1994.  In fact, over 60% of the California Arts Council’s current budget comes from the Arts plate.  All fees for the Arts plate are considered a charitable contribution; the CAC’s goal is to raise $40 million for the arts in California by selling 1 million plates, which would put California among the top states in the nation for arts funding.

Many other states including Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Alabama (just to name a few) offer special Arts license plates; you can find more information on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Wanna Play Music? Take Part in Music Monday on May 3!

WannaPlayMusicWeek10During the week of May 3-7, musicians, schools, and other organizations across the country will come together in support of the fourth annual National Wanna Play Music Week, sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).  This week-long celebration highlights the importance of music education programs in schools and promotes the benefits of playing music for people of all ages and skill levels.  NAMM is also a TakeLessons organizational partner, which is why we are proud to support this event and power the lesson locator tool on the official Wanna Play Music website.

The week will kick off with “Music Monday” on May 3, an event in which schools, community and professional organizations will perform one piece of music simultaneously at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, 11 a.m. Mountain Time, 12 p.m. Central Time, and 1 p.m. Eastern Time.  NAMM hopes that by having everyone sing the same song at the same time, music will transcend all genres and unite people through the melody and the act of performing the piece together.

NAMM is also encouraging people to pick up an instrument of their choice and play any time on May 3 as part of the Music Monday celebration.  This is the sixth year that NAMM has supported Music Monday, which is also hosted by the Coalition for Music Education in Canada and has grown to more than 2,000 schools since its inception.  You can register your school or organization as a participant in Music Monday by e-mailing

If you plan to take part in Music Monday on May 3, tell us how you’ll be getting involved!  Will you be participating in the group song, or playing an instrument?

How to Keep Your Kids Engaged in Music Lessons

PracticeMakesPerfectWhen booking new students for music lessons, we often hear, “How long will it take to see results?”  We tell our customers that it really depends on each student’s ability to learn and how much dedication and effort they choose to put into it. Meaning, if a student is enrolled in weekly lessons but fails to show up for lessons and/or practice regularly, they probably won’t see a drastic improvement. However, if they attend their scheduled lessons while continuing to practice and push themselves, they will be amazed at what they can accomplish.

When we explain this to parents, another concern usually arises – “How can I help encourage my child to practice and stay engaged in lessons?” The good news is that there are many ways parents can help keep their children excited about their lessons. We asked some of our talented TakeLessons music teachers to share how they encourage parents to get involved and got some really great feedback.  Check out this piece written by one of our Dallas guitar teachers, Jerry W. Jerry lists some interesting ideas for parents to make the musical learning process more enjoyable for their kids. Once the kids are engaged and practicing regularly, they are more likely to see their results faster!

Jerry writes:

Tips for Music Teachers: Young Guitar Students, Parents & Practice

Each year, I am approached by parents who request that I teach guitar lessons to their children.  I am always flattered that they would choose me to teach their child.  The child is usually enthusiastic as they begin their musical journey.  After about a month, the student’s attitude begins to shift from enthusiasm to the realization that they have undertaken a lifelong journey of learning.  Based on my experience, I have observed a number of ways parents can help keep their kids engaged in the process.

1. Stay informed about the lessons.  Parental involvement in the learning process is essential.  Students, oftentimes, get caught up in the details of the lesson that they are learning.  In this situation, they tend to lose sight of the long term goals.  Parents can lend a “big picture” perspective to the child.  Parental involvement can be anything from visiting with the teacher after each lesson to view the material that has been assigned to actually taking lessons with the student.  Taking lessons together is a great way for parent and child to foster a common interest.  Oftentimes, the parent can actually assist the student at home and can even practice together.

2.  The importance of the teacher’s attitude toward each student, and their progress, cannot be overstated.  The teacher must communicate with the parents each little “victory” in the learning process.  Honest communication to the parents of the areas which are going well, as well as areas which need improvement is very helpful in keeping the student engaged in the process.

3.  Parents, just like teachers, can develop creative ways to keep students practicing.  These strategies can include:  seeing that the student use play-a-long Cds, recording practice time, practicing with the student, and taking the student to performances of great artists.  Parental involvement in this way can be very effective in helping the student achieve both short term and long term goals.

Learning is, quite simply, not a “one size fits all” process.  A Harvard education professor once stated that “you cannot make some learn something.  You can only create circumstances under which they want to learn the subject.”  Therein lies the great challenge for any teacher.  Common sense parental involvement can go a long way toward creating such an environment.

-Jerry W.

TakeLessons Instructor Jerry W.

Celebrating 100 years of community music

We found this inspiring article about the Community Music Center of Boston's Centennial performances. This organization epitomizes the notion of giving back to to community at large through the gift and power of music:

The music began in a pair of settlement houses in 1910. Within those institutions, the Community Music Center of Boston initially offered education and a sense of community to recent immigrants. Since 1971, the center has been housed at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End, but its mission has remained consistent: to provide music instruction to urban students of varying ages and skill levels. They include some 5,500 students each week, many of them enabled by the $150,000-plus in scholarships given out annually.Community Music Center Students

The Community Music Center is marking its centennial with a series of 100 concerts, the first of which is next Friday at the Boston Arts Festival in the North End’s Christopher Columbus Park. The concerts will run through June 2011 and will range from solo recitals and orchestral performances to jazz and world music. According to David Lapin, the center’s executive director, virtually all of the concerts will be free, and more than half will take place in Boston schools. The Boston Public Library will also host an exhibition of Center memorabilia from January through April.

Lapin says that in its first years, the center focused on Eastern European immigrant children and the small African-American population that had migrated from the South.

“Obviously, we have a much fuller orbit to travel today,’’ he says. The school’s population now includes students from Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. In the 1980s it began working with people with AIDS; more recently it has been reaching out to children with autism and older adults with Alzheimer’s disease.

“What we’ve tried to do, in each decade, is not simply look to respond to demand that’s out there for music lessons, but to create demand where it might not otherwise exist,’’ says Lapin, who has led the center since 1983. “We’re not just waiting for people to come through the door; we’re trying to create new relationships in the community and nurture a demand for arts education generally.’’String Students

That’s why the concerts – which Lapin calls “a gift to the city’’ – will be as much about outreach as about public music-making. Many will feature students from schools with which the center has had long-running partnerships, but there will also be what Lapin calls “reasonably high-end performers’’ in the recital series and in special events.

“It reflects the twin goals of access and excellence in both education and programming more generally,’’ Lapin explains. “It’s part and parcel of what we do on a regular basis, but we’re trying to enhance the visibility of the music center and use [the concerts] as a way to not only celebrate the music center [but also] try to raise higher the banner of arts education throughout the city.’’

Some of the notable events include “Performathon,’’ the center’s annual daylong fund-raising concert, and a student composer venture with the new-music ensemble Dinosaur Annex. One set of performances seems particularly intriguing: the entire cycle of Beethoven symphonies in arrangements for solo piano, four-hand piano, and two pianos. That series – which opens with the first two symphonies on Dec. 10 – should provide an interesting counterpart to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performances of the symphonies.

Like other arts institutions, the center has been affected by the recent economic downturn. Lapin found that “the demand for arts education is relatively inelastic; people will still pay for education more than they might pay for tickets to a performance.’’ The largest decline has been in contributions: Lapin says that during the winter, “no one knew what was going on, and so basically, people stopped giving for a few months. And that was pretty scary, quite frankly.’’

Though the situation has since stabilized, Lapin is taking nothing for granted. “We’ll see,’’ he says. “Like everyone else, we have more than one set of fingers crossed.’’

We at TakeLessons avidly support music education for all and wish the very best for the Community Music Center and all organizations that facilitate in providing music education to children and adults alike.