Give A Note Foundation Awards Five Music Programs for Innovation in Music Education



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Ashley Wales
Give A Note Foundation
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Give A Note Foundation Awards Five Music Programs
for Innovation in Music Education

Schools of Five Educators Receive Grants for Innovative and Replicable Ideas 

April 18, 2018 (Reston, VA)—This spring Give A Note Foundation invited proposals for the Music Education Innovator Award that demonstrate school music programs led by creative music educators using innovative and sustainable strategies in non-traditional or traditional secondary music courses. These programs needed to show they were designed to attract students not typically enrolled in music education courses, in efforts to increase access to music education through diversity in curriculum and approach. Thank you to founding sponsor of the Music Education Innovator Award grants, the CMA Foundation.

Photo: Members of the Ramona Dynasty band of Ramona High School in Riverside, CA, perform during Give A Note’s 2017 Music In Our Schools Tour.


Grant applications came in from around the country, and Give A Note is pleased to announce the five recipients of the Music Education Innovator Awards. These music programs will receive $4,000 grants to build upon programmatic successes to date, in efforts to create lasting change in their schools or districts.

“These educators have demonstrated both creative answers to needs in their school communities and a true desire to reach all students with music, creating inclusive programs that also meet the needs of diverse student populations.”

“We are excited to share these innovative approaches to bringing music education to more students,” said Give A Note President and Board Chair Beth Slusher. “These educators have demonstrated both creative answers to needs in their school communities and a true desire to reach all students with music, creating inclusive programs that also meet the needs of diverse student populations.”

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“Research continues to show us that a quality music education will have a positive impact on a student’s academic achievement and social development,” said Tiffany Kerns, CMA Director of Community Outreach. “We are honored to be able to help celebrate and recognize those who are creating innovative curriculums and help to ensure their hard work, creativity, and dedication to music education will continue as they drive their program forward.” The 2018 Music Education Innovator Award recipients are:

  • Ethan Chessin, Camas High School, Camas, Washington: “The Business of Music.”—“Each year, we commission a commercial musician or rock composer to write a full-length concert performance for my choirs to perform alongside professional musicians from the community. As my students learn about the composition process, they also gain knowledge from a variety of music-industry experts—and apply it. A talent buyer explains her job, and then my students pick the opening act for their final performance. Later, a publicist teaches about press releases, and then the student-written press release is shared in local media. Record label executives help students design the album, graphic designers help students with poster art, sound engineers teach about live sound, and more. This year we’re focusing on the digital recording and marketing of music, so students are filming and editing music videos and setting up a website to market the recording.”
  • Ginny Coleman, Tuscaloosa County High School, Northport, Alabama: “All Together Now: Including Children with Severe Disabilities in Choir.”—“The TCHS Wildcat Choir is currently in its third year. This choir is an adapted choir class, which means that it provides high school students with and without disabilities the opportunity to work together to learn popular music and perform in the community. . . . [I]t is one of the first of its kind to include students with mild, moderate, severe, and multiple disabilities, including some who are non-verbal, in a high school choral classroom where instruction is specifically designed to meet the needs of all students.”
  • Brian Gallagher, Ramona High School, Riverside, California: “Mariachi de la dinastía Ramona.”—“This program was inspired by the desire to create the only Mariachi program in the district in an effort to reach more students, including them in instrumental music. Mariachi de la dinastía Ramona provides an opportunity for students to work with local professionals to perform and hone their music-making and music business skills. Additionally, the program provides an opportunity to work within the community through performance and engagement opportunities.”
  • Chris Gemkow, York Community High School, Elmhurst, Illinois: “Music Production Program and the York Album Project.”—“The Music Production Program at York High School [includes] three different levels of Music Production in which students learn how to create, compose, record, and produce a wide variety of music. Each student musician who continues on through all three levels of the program writes, records, and releases an EP of 3-5 original songs as the culminating music production project. The Music Production program also serves as the headquarters for the extra-curricular music program called The York Album Project comprised of student musicians from York High School who extend the skills learned in Music Production by collaborating every year to write, record, and release an album of all original material.”
  • Warren Mize, East Central High School, San Antonio, Texas: “Music Business and Industries Two-Year Course.”—“The program is designed for independent student musicians, composers, technicians, producers, et al. Recognizing we were not reaching these fringe musician students, we created a two-year course of study to prepare these students for success in the music industry. Year one is an introduction to music business and industry careers, presenting a broad overview of the music and recording industry and explaining how the various segments operate on a day-to-day basis. . . . Students are encouraged to think as entrepreneurs as well as marketers. Year two is a practicum/internship with several hands-on opportunities aligned with students’ interests. Students learn the structure of, and relationship between the recording, publishing, marketing, and live performance industries.”

These recipients will be invited and recognized at the CMA Foundation’s Music Teachers of Excellence event. They will also be invited to present on their school’s programs at the 2018 National Conference of the National Association for Music Education in Dallas, Texas, this November 11-14 (all-expense paid).

Minimally intrusive reporting requirements will be developed to allow for other schools and districts to learn from the resulting models, with associated music educators serving as Innovative Ambassadors to the field.


About Give A Note Foundation

Since 2011, Give A Note Foundation has conducted national awareness campaigns and raised funds to support and strengthen music education programs across the U.S. The programs have reached millions of parents and students and provided more than $1.2 million in direct grants to schools. Learn more about Give A Note Foundation at Help give the gift of music! Text “MusicEd GAN” to 20222 to donate $10! Message & Data Rates May Apply. Details: You can follow Give a Note on Twitter and on Facebook.

About the CMA Foundation

Established in 2011 as the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association (CMA), the CMA Foundation is committed to improving and sustaining music education programs all across the United States, working to ensure every child has the opportunity to participate in music education. Through strategic partnerships, professional development and grant distribution, the CMA Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), has invested more than $21 million in over 85 programs across the national public school system, after school programs, summer camps and community outreach organizations. Guided by the generosity of the Country Music community, proceeds from CMA Fest, the four-day long music festival held annually in Nashville, are used to power the CMA Foundation’s social impact and unique model of giving. For more information visit