(l-r) CMA Board President, Ed Hardy; CMA Board Chairman, Troy Tomlinson; CMA Chief Executive Officer, Steve Moore; Director of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Dr. Jesse Register; Scotty McCreery; Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Chevrolet National Promotions Manager, Michael Weidman; Chair of The CMA Foundation Board of Directors, Kitty Moon Emery; and Nashville Public Education Foundation Board Chair, Michael Carter, Sr. Photo Credit Donn Jones/CMA

The CMA Foundation donated $1.2 million to benefit music education programs for Nashville’s 81,000 public school students from 2012 CMA Music Festival through the Keep the Music Playing campaign at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Tuesday night.

The announcement raises CMA’s Keep the Music Playing support of music education in Metro Schools from $5.3 million to more than $6.5 million. This money has been used to build music labs and purchase instruments and supplies for ALL 144 Metro Nashville Public Schools through a partnership with the Nashville Public Education Foundation.

“Providing instruments for every Metro school is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Steve Moore, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “When we started this program in 2006, instruments in Metro band programs were more than 30 years old – if they were lucky enough to have them at all. Seeing what this program has accomplished on behalf of our artists is extremely gratifying. Keep the Music Playing is making a difference by helping to make quality music education a reality for our children.”

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 each year for free.

The announcement of the 2012 CMA Music Festival donation was made at a reception prior to the Fourth Annual CMA Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The All Stars Concert honors the best elementary, middle, and high school performance groups selected from Metro Schools. 

CMA Award nominee Scotty McCreery hosted the concert and was on hand for the donation announcement, which was attended by band directors and music teachers from Metro Schools, as well as representatives from The CMA Foundation, CMA Board of Directors, Music City Music Council, and Nashville Public Education Foundation.

Famous for winning American Idol before he graduated high school, McCreery understands firsthand the importance of music education. In addition to hosting the CMA All Stars Concert, McCreery performed “The River” (made famous by Garth Brooks) with students from Sylvan Park Elementary School.

“When I was in high school in North Carolina, I was very involved in the school’s music program which provided the foundation that inspired my music career today,” said McCreery.  “And as a proud performer at the past two CMA Music Festivals, it’s an honor to represent CMA’s Keep the Music Playing, a program that gives back to schools in such a big way. Hosting the All Stars Concert and performing with the students of Sylvan Park Elementary has been an unforgettable experience and I’m glad I was able to share the stage with such talented young people.”

McCreery was American Idol’s youngest male winner in 2011, as well as the show’s first Country male star. His first studio album, Clear As Day, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and Top Country Albums charts, making him the youngest male in history to open at the top of the all-genre chart with a debut release. The project also garnered the highest sales of any Country solo album released in 2011, held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart for six weeks and earned Platinum status in just 13 weeks. His hits include “The Trouble With Girls,” “Water Tower Town,” and “I Love You This Big.” His first headlining tour, “Weekend Roadtrip,” kicked off on Feb. 14.

In the midst of a budding career, McCreery is also pursuing an undergraduate degree at N.C. State University. He grew up singing in church in the Raleigh satellite community of Garner, N.C.  He led a praise-and-worship group called Audience of One. He also sang with an advanced high-school chorale group called Die Meistersingers. It required him to sight-read music, perform classical pieces, and compete with similar groups on a national level.

“Putting instruments in the hands of children is one of the most important initiatives undertaken by The CMA Foundation,” said Kitty Moon Emery, Chair of The CMA Foundation Board of Directors. “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 to advance their skills and achieve their dreams.”

CMA created the nonprofit (501C3) CMA Foundation in 2011. The Foundation 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.

In addition to Emery, the Mayor of Nashville, the honorable Karl Dean; Nashville Public Education Foundation Board Chair Michael Carter, Sr.; and Director of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Dr. Jesse Register attended the announcement.

During the program, Michael Weidman, Chevrolet National Promotions Manager, presented a new Chevrolet Traverse, which will be used to pick up and deliver instruments for the Keep the Music Playing-funded instrument repair facility for Metro Schools; which means repaired instruments will get back into the hands of students faster.

“Chevrolet supports America’s youth and understands the value and role music can play in the lives of students,” Weidman said. “We are proud to support such a worthwhile cause and remain committed to our outstanding partnership with the Country Music Association and Keep the Music Playing.”

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 78.4 percent for the general population. Sixty percent of Metro students are involved in music education classes – including 100 percent of elementary school students.

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.

All Stars are selected by Metro Nashville Public Schools Coordinator of Performing Arts Dr. Nola Jones and include Antioch High School Wind Ensemble, Croft Middle Design Center Advanced Orchestra, Meigs Academic Magnet Wind Ensemble, the Nashville School of the Arts Festival Choir, Oliver Middle School Wind Ensemble, and Sylvan Park Elementary School.

“In Metro Schools, we’re providing every student with the foundation to excel in higher education, work and life. Music education is an essential part of that,” said Register. “Keep the Music Playing has provided musical instruments to our students who come from 130 nations around the world. With musical instruments in their hands, students share a common language and opportunity to transform their lives.”

With this announcement, the total figure for the Keep the Music Playing program is $7.6 million. This figure includes a $1 million endowment gift 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; support of the 2012 W.O. Smith summer camp program; and a recent instrument donation to P.S. 103 in the Bronx, NY.       

2013 CMA Music Festival will be held Thursday through Sunday, June 6-9. Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, and Carrie Underwood 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 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.