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THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR! The WPS Music Program, under the talented direction of (from left) Elementary Music Teacher Melissa Smith, 5-12 Band Director Jason Smith, and 5-12 Vocal Director Leighton Ware, has once again earned the distinction of being named by the NAMM Foundation as one of America's 2023 "Best Communities for Music Education!"

Wahoo Public Schools once again named among nation's "Best Communities for Music Education"

District's music program earns NAMM Foundation's distinction for THIRD straight year!

CONGRATULATIONS to the Wahoo Public Schools Music Department for once again being named among the nation's 2023 "Best Communities for Music Education" by National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation! WPS was among only four Nebraska school districts that earned this honor. The others were Blair Public Schools, Lincoln Public Schools, and Tri-County Public Schools. This is the third consecutive year WPS has been named among the best in the United States (links to the website articles for 2021 and 2022).

"When is it good to sound like a broken record? When it comes to being recognized as a 'Best Community for Music Education' for the third year in a row!" commented WPS Director of Learning Dr. Josh Snyder. "As one of only four school districts in the state of Nebraska to achieve this distinction, it continues to shine a light on our phenomenal K-12 music department and high level of support from our school community. Much of this was on display during our recent Spring Pops Concert where students showcased their many musical talents, and well over 600 community members came to celebrate right along with them. Our school community continues to inspire students in the fine arts and we look forward to seeing what is next for this department! None of this would be possible without our instructors, our students' families, and our Music Boosters, who put countless hours into providing opportunities for our students to be successful!"

THANK YOU Mrs. Smith, Mr. Smith, and Ms. Ware for everything you do for our students!


The NAMM Foundation Celebrates the Best in Music Education with Honors for 830 School Districts and 78 Schools
NAMM Foundation Press Release (April 18, 2023)

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation is pleased to celebrate this year’s Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) list. Now in its 24th year, the 2023 Best Communities for Music Education program recognizes 830 school districts and 78 schools across 43 states for the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders and their support for music education as part of a well-rounded education for all children.

“Music education, as part of a well-rounded education, has never been more important to unleash students’ creativity and supports emotional health and well-being as they build connections through music activities,” shares Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation. “We applaud the administrators, teachers, and communities who support and sustain music education through a period of intense change and are committed to music education so that all children can explore and express themselves through music.”

Celebrating these outstanding districts and schools comes on the heels of a new report which qualifies millions of children not having access to music education. Released late last year, the National Arts Education Status Report Summary 2019 is a comprehensive look at access to and participation in arts education in public schools in the United States. The report detailed that while 92 percent of students in U.S. public schools have access to music education in school, 3,609,698 students do not have that same opportunity. In addition, 2,095,538 students do not have access to arts education (defined as dance, music, theatre, or visual arts).

This year's awards program acknowledges and celebrates innovative schools and districts that have developed a stronger presence for music education on campus and in the lives of students. Given the impact of COVID on traditional in-person learning, researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, in conjunction with The NAMM Foundation, created a new way for districts and schools to share their stories with a special “More to Start” supplemental survey. The supplement helped researchers understand access and entry points for students to begin or resume their musical journeys and the challenges and opportunities in the post-pandemic classroom. 

For most music educators, music remained vital to core curriculum and as part of their community.

Matthew Koperniak of Fulton County Schools wrote, “Our school system has received this designation for 23 years in a row. Our Board of Education is very proud of this designation. It has prompted new Board members to attend performances and show great interest in our music students and programs. It has also prompted continued and expanded support for the program in a variety of ways.”

“As a previous recipient, the designation of ‘Best Communities for Music Education’ allowed us to thank the Board of Education, community members, parents, and staff for their continued effort in providing the best possible opportunities for our students,” shared Chris Reynolds of Topeka Public Schools. “It has increased community awareness and challenged the community to continue making music education a whole-group effort.  This has included showcasing programs that were discussed during our application process but also new partnerships that have grown through better communication of the innovative work that our teachers provide.”

In addition to the 830 districts receiving Best Communities for Music Education recognition, 78 individual schools across the nation are awarded with the SupportMusic Merit Award (SMMA), which recognizes support for school-based music education programs.

Since its inception, thousands of schools and school districts have submitted a survey for evaluation. Past districts named as Best Community for Music Education included urban, suburban, and rural districts. Schools that have received the SupportMusic Merit Award designation included public and private schools and ranged from elementary to middle and high schools.

In conducting the annual survey, The NAMM Foundation and the Music Institute at the University of Kansas are joined by leading national arts organizations, including the League of American Orchestras; Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation; Music for All; Music Teachers National Association; National Guild For Community Arts Education; Yamaha Corporation of America; Young Audiences; and Save The Music Foundation.

In conducting the annual survey, The NAMM Foundation and the Music Institute at the University of Kansas are joined by leading national arts organizations, including the League of American OrchestrasMr. Holland's Opus FoundationMusic for AllMusic Teachers National AssociationNational Guild For Community Arts EducationYamaha Corporation of AmericaYoung Audiences; and Save The Music Foundation.

View the complete list of Best Communities for Music Education and SupportMusic Merit Award winners HERE.


Wahoo Public Schools also received this honor in 2021 and 2022.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, WPS answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

"Being recognized nationally as one of the Best Communities for Music Education for the third consecutive year can be attributed to outstanding community support for our music education and fine arts programs," stated WPS Director of Learning Dr. Josh Snyder. "Current Wahoo Public Schools music instructors Mr. Jason Smith, Mrs. Melissa Smith and Ms. Leighton Ware continue to build upon past successes and elevate our program to new heights. We look forward to the future and continued growth of our music education programs!"

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also to attend college as well. Everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.

"The rich musical history and investments our community has made in our music department has allowed us to maintain throughout the district, high percentages of student involvement in musical ensembles for which we have been recognized across the state," Dr. Snyder added. "We have broadened the scope and sequence of our curricular and extracurricular programs. Our school board, administrators, and community consistently invest in our program and school. Over the past ten years, the number of students going on to collegiate music ensembles has increased exponentially. We have students going on to arrange, compose, and perform in traditional and non-traditional music groups and have become a school that is known, around the state, for our fine arts successes. Our musical 'family' begins in kindergarten and continues through high school and beyond. We are a community that loves music education!"

Congratulations Warrior Music on this well-deserved honor!

About The NAMM Foundation

The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,400 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. For more information about The NAMM Foundation, please visit www.nammfoundation.org.

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Wahoo Public Schools once again named among nation's "Best Communities for Music Education"

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