Mayor Karl Dean, along with other city leaders, spoke Thursday at the Music City Center regarding the first year of the Music Makes Us program that has been implemented in city schools.
During his remarks, Dean recognized the critical role music has played in the city’s growth and success.
“It gives us this edge that makes us different than other places,” Dean said. “I am a great believer in Richard Florida, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, who talks a lot about the cities of the future being the cities that attract creative people and attract people whose capital is their ability to create whether it is to write a song, sing a song or produce a song. And Nashville does that.”
Music Makes Us started out as an idea that came out of a meeting in 2009 that Dean had with leaders from the music industry. From the meeting the Music City Music Council was formed. Dean said that helped the city engage the music industry and let them know how important they are to the community.
He went on to say that he has always thought Nashville should have the best music education programs of any city in the country and that arts education is the key to a well-rounded education. And that is what the Music Makes Us program, which is a public-private partnership between the city, music industry leaders, the higher education community and the school district, set out to do. After a few years of discussion and planning, Music Makes Us officially rolled out during the 2012 school year.
“Music industry folks are part of the fabric of this community and wanted to do more and talked about ways to give back to the community and landed on the idea of music education,” said Laurie Schell, director of Music Makes Us. “We wanted to figure out how to enhance the music education programs in this community in a more strategic and systematic way.”
Schell said they are looking to be a world-class music education program and that it can be looked at in a couple different ways.
“There is always value in learning music for its own sake,” Schell said. “The other side of the coin is to learn music to benefit students in other ways whether it be socially, emotionally or academically.”
The program added more music teachers in the district, funding and a whole new contemporary music track, which includes courses like mariachi, hip hop, rock, song writing, country and blue grass. It also includes a new teacher evaluation for Visual and Performing Arts.
Jesse Register, director of schools, said that the school board’s commitment and unanimous resolution earlier this year affirming music education as an essential component to every students’ education is backed by sound research.
“Studies show that students engaged in the arts have higher test scores, higher graduation rates and participation in the arts can close the achievement gap among various groups of students,” Register said.
Dean echoed the same sentiment when he said that the students who are most likely to graduate from high school and the most likely to succeed are ones who participate in art and extracurricular programs. He stressed the importance of students having an interest that compels them to keep going back to school and giving them a definition and meaning to what they are learning.
“We will continue to commit our city and the school district to work on this program for the future,” Dean said.