Van Buren School District has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.

VBSD is the only school district in Arkansas to earn the prestigious designation, according to Ron Smith, instrumental music supervisor for the district.

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

To qualify for the best communities designation, VBSD answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, instrumental music participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the instrumental music program, awards and accomplishments and community music-making programs.

Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

“It’s been a historic year for the entire Van Buren band program from grade six through 12,” Smith said. “We have record numbers of students enrolled in the band program, we’ve won a state marching championship, our Northridge Middle School Band, Van Buren High School Freshman Academy Band and Van Buren High School Jazz Band were all selected for honor performances at three separate state education conferences, not to mention a school record number of all-conference and all-state team members and a quarter of a million dollars in college band scholarships awarded to our Van Buren Band Senior class.”

Smith said the Best Communities for Music Education designation is just another affirmation of the incredible things that the students and staff of the Van Buren Instrumental Music Program are doing to promote the importance and necessity of music education within the state and community.

The award recognizes VBSD is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act, Smith said.

“The legislation guides implementation in the states and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act which was often criticized for an overemphasis on testing-while leaving behind subjects such as instrumental music,” he said. “ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.”

Van Buren band parent Daniel Newell said music education in Van Buren is important because it teaches children the value of teamwork and that success comes through hard work and dedication.

“It also builds skills in memorization, imagination, coordination, discipline and a sense of achievement,” Newell said. “Music is a gateway to our children’s future. The skills and values they learn can be applied to everyday life.”

Research into instrumental music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music.

Beyond the Northwestern research, other studies have indicated that instrumental music education lays the foundation for individual excellence in group settings, creative problem solving and flexibility in work situations, as well learning how to give and receive constructive criticism to excel.

A 2015 study supported by The NAMM Foundation, “Striking A Chord,” also outlines the overwhelming desire by teachers and parents for instrumental music education opportunities for all children as part of the school curriculum.

The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,300 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving, and public service programs.