Photo Credit - Donn Jones

The CMA Foundation is donating $1.4 million to benefit music education programs for Nashville’s 78,000 public school students from 2011 CMA Music Festival through the “Keep the Music Playing” campaign.

This announcement raises CMA’s Keep the Music Playing support of music education in public schools from $4.7 million to more than $6.1 million. This money has been used to build music labs and purchase more than 4,000 instruments, and much needed supplies for 80 Metro Nashville Public Schools through a partnership with the Nashville Public Education Foundation (formerly known as the Nashville Alliance for Public Education).

The $1.4 million donation includes $200,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Words & Music” program, which assists language arts and music teachers with classroom instruction in the basics of songwriting. CMA established a $1 million endowment gift for the program in 2007 with a $200,000 annual gift.

In 2006, the CMA Artist Relations Committee established the Keep the Music Playing program to give back to the community on behalf of the hundreds of Country artists who perform and make appearances at CMA Music Festival for free.

The announcement of the 2011 CMA Music Festival donation was made at a reception prior to the Third CMA Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Tuesday night. The All Stars Concert honors the best elementary, middle, and high school performance groups selected from 133 Metro Nashville Public Schools.  

RCA recording artist and two-time CMA Award nominee Chris Young hosted the concert and was on hand for the donation announcement, which was attended by MNPS band directors and music teachers, as well as representatives from the CMA Foundation, CMA Board of Directors, Music City Music Council, and Nashville Public Education Foundation.  

A Middle-Tennessee native, Young understands the importance of music education in Music City and has supported the cause by appearing at the CMA Music Festival for the past eight years. “Music has had such a profound influence in every aspect of my life,” declares Young.  “I cannot stress how important it is for young people to continue to have the ability to participate in music programs.  I’m proud I’ve had the opportunity to take part in this Keep The Music Playing event.”

Special guest Suzy Bogguss has made music education a personal mission with her latest project, American Folk Songbook. The CD and companion songbook were created to help educate a new generation of fans about the classic American folk tradition. Bogguss performed two songs from the book with students from Glengarry Elementary School.  

“The kids and I had a blast working these songs up,” said Bogguss. “They showed me their wonderful instruments they received from the CMA Music Festival with great pride, and they played and sang their little hearts out!”

“Putting instruments in the hands of children is one of the most important initiatives undertaken by CMA on behalf of our artists,” said Steve Moore, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “Supporting music education is an investment in the future of our city and our industry. It is an honor to nurture these young performers and provide them with the resources and opportunities they need and deserve.”

To advance that goal, CMA created the nonprofit (501C3) CMA Foundation in 2011. The Foundation, chaired by Kitty Moon Emery, exists to provide financial support to worthwhile causes that are important to CMA and the Country Music community. The group places special emphasis on serving the needs of CMA’s core constituents and nonprofit organizations with initiatives that preserve the legacy of the format, support music education, and respond to other needs identified by CMA.

Emery was on hand for donation announcement as was the Mayor of Nashville, the honorable Karl Dean, Nashville Public Education Foundation Board Chair Margaret Dolan; Director of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Dr. Jesse Register; and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Director Kyle Young.

“Nashville is blessed with a lot of people and organizations that put resources toward our public schools and improving education in our city, but I can think of no other organization that takes dollars and uses them to put resources directly in the hands of our students on the scale that the CMA does every year,” said Mayor Dean. “It is truly an amazing gift. CMA’s support for music education in Nashville, along with our Music Makes Us initiative, is helping us achieve our ultimate goal in Music City, and that’s to provide all of our students with the opportunity to succeed.”

Mayor Dean last year launched Music Makes Us, an overhaul of the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ music program to include a new contemporary curriculum that better reflects today’s diverse musical landscape.

Also in attendance was Phil Caruso, Chevrolet National Promotions Manager.  It was announced in November, that Chevrolet – the Official Ride of Country Music – would be joining forces with CMA to shine a spotlight on music education by partnering on the Keep the Music Playing initiative. 

To kick off their two-year commitment Chevrolet donated a 2012 Camaro convertible, which is currently being auctioned on CMA’s website, CMAworld.com, to benefit Keep the Music Playing. The hood of the Camaro was signed by all of the celebrities walking the Red Carpet at the 2011 CMA Awards. Awards co-host Brad Paisley was the first to sign the hood live on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the partnership announcement was included in the Awards broadcast with Paisley performing with two students from Nashville School of the Arts – Mignon Grabois and Charley Woods.

“Chevrolet, the official ride of Country Music, is proud to support tomorrow’s Country Music stars through the Keep the Music Playing program,” said Caruso, manager, Chevrolet promotions. “Chevrolet’s 100 years of history have long been celebrated in song. Combining our support for Country Music and education was an easy decision.”

Grabois and Woods, who dazzled television viewers with their rendition of “If I Die Young” on the CMA Awards, had an encore of sorts performing Tuesday night with Young during the concert. The trio performed Young’s current No. 1 hit “You.”   

“This journey has been such an exciting experience,” said Woods. “Both Mignon and I are infinitely blessed to have had all these incredible opportunities to sing out for such a grand cause so close to our hearts. Music has always played an essential part in our lives, constantly feeding our desire to learn and nourishing our spirit. We only hope to spread our joy as we continue to play it forward and Keep the Music Playing forever.”

Studies show students who participate in the arts are more likely to graduate. Metro’s performing arts students have a 96 percent graduation rate compared to 76 percent for the general population. The music programs keep the students engaged in high school, but the musical training also provides access to potential college scholarships so these students can further their education and earn degrees.

“The Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert puts on display the many musical talents of Metro Nashville Public School students and it is direct proof of how young musicians can reach their potential when provided with the necessary resources,” Moore said.

All Stars are selected by Metro Nashville Public Schools Coordinator of Performing Arts Carol Crittenden and include Bellevue Middle School Band; Glengarry Elementary Orff Ensemble and Singers; Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet Theater and Orchestra Departments; McGavock High School Wind Ensemble; and the Nashville School of the Arts Pop Ensemble.

“The musical groups that are represented at ‘Keep the Music Playing’ concert are performing at exceptional levels because of great teachers, wonderful students and the instruments donated by CMA,” Crittenden said. “Without the instrument donations, the quantity and quality of these programs would be diminished. The CMA partnership has given us the ability to positively impact the lives of more students than ever before.”

2012 CMA Music Festival will be held Thursday through Sunday, June 7-10. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Faith Hill, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, The Band Perry, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and Zac Brown Band have already been announced as performers, with more to be announced in the coming weeks.

Tickets are available now, call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit www.CMAfest.com; or visit Ticketmaster.com to buy online or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000. Ticket prices start at $115 for Upper Level General Admission.