The Music City brand has long been synonymous with Nashville, but the quality of music education inside Metro schools doesn’t necessarily reflect it.
Convinced schools could stand to improve in the area, Mayor Karl Dean recently tapped a consultant — Patrick Bolek, who works for a California-based group called Momentum Project Lab — to come up with a plan to improve the music programs offered by the city’s public schools.
The idea, as well as private funding to hire Bolek, came from Dean’s Music Business Council, a group of Nashville musicians formed more than a year ago to help leverage the city’s celebrated music industry.
“They came up with a goal to have the best music programs in public schools of any city in the country,” Dean said.
“It’s a big goal, but it’s a natural goal.”
That Nashville can foster a top-notch music education program seems reasonable.
“We’re blessed with resources,” Dean said. “Whether it’s the number of musicians who are here, who can volunteer, or the number of songwriters who can go in and help, or the business activities we could set up with our career academy program in our high schools.
“Then we have all the facilities,” he added. “You’ve got the symphony hall, the [Country Music] Hall of Fame, and the W.O. Smith School of Music. We’ve got a lot of things happening here.”
What the top public education music program in the country looks like is to be fleshed out in Bolek’s report, but Dean has his ideas. “Better access to instruments, instruction and music careers,” he said. The mayor also knows finding private donors is key, especially for a cash-strapped school system.
“We’re acknowledging that the consultant comes in, does a plan, works with the committee, works with the schools, and then you’re going to have funding issues,” Dean said. “The way you get that done is through a public-private partnership, in my mind.”
Dean, who has called improving public schools his top priority from day one, has accumulated a host of education-minded committees, projects and task forces during his tenure. But in a city with a school system run by a separate superintendent, he has limited options to make his play to turn around a struggling school district.