Teachers Spoke, NAfME Listened, Congress Got the Message

Once deemed a mere elective, an “extra” in the school day schedule for the privileged few, music education classes (band, orchestra, chorus, general music, among other related classes) quietly staked their place in students’ daily and weekly studies.

And then the arguments favorable to music education’s value burgeoned.

First, studies showed how music training helps students understand mathematical concepts. It helps illustrate cultural and historical facts and establish them in memory. It helps increase test scores! So students have to have music to give them an edge in other studies, the argument followed.

But do math educators have to justify their place in the curriculum because algebra . . . helps students perform music better? No. Neither is music’s value found in how it helps with other studies. Music is important for music’s sake.

And thus began a new drumbeat for music education advocacy. Music classes are not electives—they are core.

standardized tests


“Maintaining the definition of core academic subjects, including ‘the arts,’ in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is fundamental to orchestrating success for all students,” wrote Christopher Woodside, NAfME’s Assistant Executive Director, recently in Roll Call. He continued,



“For the benefit of our children and our nation’s future, we need schools to offer experiences that develop competencies in creating, performing, and responding. We need schools to foster creativity, which helps drive our economy. We need schools to instruct students in how to perform, both musically, and on the job. And we need schools to teach students how to respond to one another, their culture and the world around them. Music programs in our schools foster all of these skills, help to develop the complete individual and provide the balanced curriculum that students deserve. As such, the National Association for Music Education strongly urges Congress to maintain core academic subjects, including the arts, in the reauthorization of ESEA.”

Founded a little more than one year ago, National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) new Broader MindedTM: Think beyond the bubblesTM campaign is the actualization of thousands of voices: music educators, college professors of music education, music students, parents, and other music education advocates, all speaking in unison for music education’s value in and of itself in preparing our students for today’s educational and professional demands—and fulfilling their needs as whole students.

A visit to the interactive website www.broaderminded.com and a click on the Beyond the Bubbles “heart” icon reveals those instrinsic benefits of music education: creativity, decision-making, grit, communication, collaboration, emotional awareness, and more. The website also does still include the typical extrinsic benefits (“Inside the Bubbles”) for those looking for that information: higher grade point averages, engagement, higher attendance and graduation rates, and the like.

But those 21st century skills that are prevalent in education policy discussions are the elements the Broader Minded campaign seeks to emphasize.

music education




And the campaign has gotten recognition in its first year:

But it’s not about the awards. It’s about the impact—and making sure our members’ voices are heard.

This spring, the Broader Minded campaign mobilized supporters to send more than 10,000 letters to Congress, as well as encouraging 50+ phone calls to congressional offices, during the debate over the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. We encourage music education advocates to continue that momentum.


Congress has not reauthorized ESEA in over a decade. And now legislators are contending with a vocal music education community empowered by a strong Broader Minded music education advocacy campaign, with compelling arguments and effective advocacy tools.

NAfME is here to empower our members and supporters to speak out for the right of all students to a complete, high-quality music education, and for music teachers to be fairly evaluated based on the subject they teach.

Catherina Hurlburt, Communications Manager, March 26, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).