by Rebecca Pierce | Photography by Donn Jones

In just a few years, Music Makes Us, a joint effort of Metro Nashville Public Schools, Mayor Karl Dean, and music industry and community leaders, has hit countless high notes and dramatically enriched music education in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

A few of the inaugural achievements of Music Makes Us include implementing 40 new contemporary classes in 18 middle and high schools, launching a world-class recording studio and student-run record label in a local high school, restoring band at all 35 zoned and magnet middle schools, and creating new choral programs in four middle schools.

In its second year, those efforts continued to grow, new programs were added, and a baseline research report proved that student participation in school music programs has measurable effects on school engagement and academic achievement. For example, music students with more than one year of music are 52% more likely to graduate from high school on time than their non-music peers, 7% more likely to come to school each day, earn a 15% higher grade point average, score 16% higher on the ACT-English, and 9% higher on ACT-Math.

Laurie Schell, Director of Music Makes Us, says, “I think part of my job is to say to the community that our investment is worth it. Look what’s happening to the kids. That’s part of the reason we did the benchmark research study, to show that the investment we are making is having an impact on students. It’s not just fluff. It’s not just a ‘nice to have’. This is making a difference in students’ lives every day.”

So far this year, a district-wide indoor drum line has been added, and expansion is underway for the choral program, world percussion and mariachi, which is drawing students of all nationalities. More targeted professional development is being offered to teachers, and a new mentoring program is in place for teachers joining Metro Nashville Public Schools. In October, the Hub, an online listing of vetted music professionals and organizations who want to share their programs or expertise with students in Metro schools, will be fully operational and ready for teachers to access.

In coming months Nashville Arts Magazine will feature some of the high notes Music Makes Us is reaching: student success stories, stellar faculty contributions, and the music programs that are making such a positive impact on our community’s youth.

For more information about Music Makes Us and the benchmark research study, visit

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