The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has been honored with the “Best Communities for Music Education” designation from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. This marks the 19th consecutive year for SMMUSD to earn these honors.

SMMUSD joins 686 districts across the country in receiving the prestigious award in 2021, and is one of only three districts in Los Angeles County to be recognized.

The Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

“This award recognizes the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who work together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum, including during this challenging year,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said. “We would not have received this recognition without the hard work and dedication of many people providing equity and access to all our students in Malibu and Santa Monica.”

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, SMMUSD 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.

The district appreciates the support of the Santa Monica Education Foundation, Arts Angels, Shark Fund and Malibu PTA in funding many SMMUSD visual and performing arts programs. Please contact any school site for more information on supporting visual and performing arts.

“During the most challenging time our music teachers have stepped up and continued to deliver an outstanding music education for students!” Tom Whaley, Coordinator, Visual and Performing Arts said. “SMMUSD has received this award consecutively longer than any school district in California and that is due to the commitment and hard work of all our stakeholders, but especially our fantastic music teachers!”

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.

Submitted by Gail Pinsker