Put down the trombone, and take a seat behind a soundboard.
Though Metro Nashville Public Schools isn’t abandoning traditional music outlets like the marching band and choir, a new overhaul of the district’s music education program — relying heavily on private dollars — includes a greater focus on music technology.
That means an adjusted music curriculum, with new classes on production, songwriting and composition, rock band and hip-hop performance, and recording and remixing. Dubbed “Music Makes Us,” organizers — led by Mayor Karl Dean — hope to complement existing music programs with new opportunities.
Backers say it’s a plan that makes sense for a city that bills itself “Music City.”
“Simply put, ‘Music Makes Us’ will encourage a whole new approach to self-exploration and learning,” said Dean, kicking of the new program Friday morning at the Ryman Auditorium. He added it would bring new “academic relevance and learning” to students and teachers alike.
“What makes this program even more exceptional — and frankly, unique — is the involvement and full partnership of our city’s vibrant music scene,” Dean said. “From our venues and businesses, to our artists and songwriters, every aspect of Nashville’s music industry will be tapped and enlisted.”
Buy-in from Nashville’s music community is key. In its early years, the program will be bankrolled entirely by private dollars, with plans to commit public dollars as the initiative advances. So far, an estimated $500,000 in private funding has been raised. Donors include philanthropist Martha Ingram, recording giant Mike Curb and Gibson Guitar Corp.
“This will be a public-private partnership,” Dean said. “For this to be successful, we’re going to have to have put more money on the public side of the equation to support our schools.”
The program begins in 2012 at the elementary and middle school levels before heading to all high schools the next year. The initiative includes professional development and externship opportunities for teachers, and opportunities for students to perform at various live music venues across Nashville.
“We need to move beyond the traditional music program,” said Director of Schools Jesse Register, alluding to the diversity of Metro’s 78,000 students. “We will enhance our music programs and engage even more students. A great music education program will help us become the best urban school district in the country.”
Under the plan, Metro’s central office will have an “Office of Music Education,” consisting of a full-time director and small staff. All are to be hired during the current school year, billed as a planning period. Metro is also planning to conduct an audit of the school district’s music facilities, equipment and instruments.
Gaylord Entertainment CEO Colin Reed, who introduced the mayor and indicated a willingness to contribute financially, said everyone acknowledges the educational benefits of an enhanced music program. He added that others are rewarded, too.
“I can see personally a huge business benefit from this program,” Reed said.
Friday’s announcement was two years in the making, an initiative rooted largely in the work of Dean’s citizen-led Music City Music Council. The council hired a California consultant to study Metro’s music curriculum.
Dean gave credit for helping spearhead the project to Nancy Shapiro, vice president of member services with The Recording Academy. Shapiro also serves on Dean’s music council.