The Van Buren school District has been recognized nationally as one of the best communities for music education.

Heralding school districts that demonstrate the highest levels of commitment to music education, the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, in conjunction with the Support Music Coalition, has awarded the Van Buren School District the prestigious designation of "Best Communities for Music Education."

In a record-breaking year for participation in the Best Communities survey, the Van Buren School District is the only school district from the state of Arkansas to earn this prestigious designation.

Mr. Ron Smith, director of the Van Buren School District Instrumental Music Department said, it is an honor for the program to be recognized nationally for the commitment to music education that the community and school district have demonstrated.

"It stems from a fundamental belief from our board of education, superintendent and administrators in the value and necessity of a strong music education program," Smith said. "It’s also a wonderful testimonial to the high quality band directors, choral music instructors, and general music teachers we have working with our student’s throughout the school district."

The Best Communities for Music Education designation recognizes collaborative, from-the-ground-up efforts of teachers, administrators, students and parents who continually work to keep comprehensive music education as an integral part of the core curriculum.

This year, nearly 2,000 schools and school districts participated in the survey - an increase of 366 percent from 2012. From those 2,000 school districts, only 300 were selected as a best community for music education.

According to NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen, the Best Communities for Music Education program is the bellwether of rising endorsement for this vital cause.

"There is overwhelming research tying music education to higher overall student success in school and in life," she said. "This designation recognizes communities for their commitment to music education and strengthens support for these programs. Having widely embraced the evidence indicating that music education yields great things in schools and communities, people are increasingly affirmative, advocating for school music curricula, and championing programs like Best Communities for Music Education that recognize this commitment to music education."

Now in its 14th year, the BCME program requires each school district to detail funding, staffing, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction. Responses are meticulously reviewed and audited by researchers at the Institute for Educational Research and Public Service of Lawrence, Kan., an affiliate of the University of Kansas, and the NAMM Foundation to calculate the designated districts and awarded schools.