Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.
NEA News

A Steadfast Commitment to Music Education

Two award-winning teachers know music has a positive impact on achievement and development and are working to make sure it remains a key part of the school curriculum.
music in schools
Published: 12/06/2023

“I can’t imagine a child not having music in their life,” says Ashley Harris, band director at Spring Station Middle School in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

ashley harris
Ashley Harris

Music was always a part of Harris’ life. She began taking piano lessons at six years old and was inspired to appreciate all forms of music. Having a female band director in high school inspired her to have a similar career path. 

As a successful educator herself, with over twenty years of experience teaching music, Harris recognizes the impact of music education on her life. However, that has not been the experience of all students.

In an education system constantly under pressure to adapt to shifting priorities and technological advancements, music education's value often finds itself at a crossroads. The focus on subjects like math and reading can overshadow the importance of music. When districts are looking to cut budgets, art is often first on the chopping block. However, music teachers and researchers have found that making a place for music in school has a positive impact on student achievement and development.

Cultivating Academic Achievement through Music

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, the more students study music, the better they perform in math and reading. The discipline, practice, and attention required to study and perform musical concepts directly correlate to the skills necessary to comprehend subjects involving critical thinking and problem-solving. 

Bethany Robinson
Bethany Robinson

“We try to create an environment where students feel comfortable making mistakes and trying again,” says Bethany Robinson, a Jazz Band Director at Noblesville High School in Indiana.

Robinson’s efforts to build a safe space for her students have had a significant impact. Last year, she was named one of the 2022 Jazz Heroes by the Jazz Journalists Association, which highlights advocates who have generated an impact on their local communities. More recently, Robinson was named the 2023 “High School Music Educator of the Year” by the Indiana Music Association.

Robinson’s focus is less on creating a generation of professional musicians than instilling a lifelong love and appreciation of music. “The goal is to give them an excuse to try new music so that maybe at some point in the future, they'll pick up their instrument again,” she says.

Music teachers like Robinson and Harris know they are training more than musicians. “Some of them are going to be doctors and attorneys, or even CEOs of companies,” Harris says.

A Lasting Commitment

This year, Harris was named one of the 2023 Country Music Association Foundation’s Music Teachers of Excellence. This program recognizes educators who have had a significant impact on their students and have utilized music to stimulate change.

Harris and the other 29 recipients were awarded $5000 to help support themselves and their music programs. “They truly pour into us so we can pour into others. It's one of the coolest feelings that I've ever had in my entire career,” says Harris.

By directly supporting music teachers in an education system that has continued to underfund music programs, educators are provided more opportunities to use music in making a difference in students' lives.

Because budgets for music programs are slim to none, educators often have to find ways to create the best programs for the students with their own resources and funding. “We don't have a budget for band, within our district, our school, or with the state. So if we need anything, we have to fundraise ourselves,” Harris says.

Nevertheless, educators like Robinson and Harris are steadfast in their commitment to their students and the lasting effects of music. Robinson wants to continue “sharing the joy and the excellence of music at every level, from elementary through college and beyond.” Harris's wish is more of the same: "My hope and prayer is that music education will be sustainable,” she says.

Get more from

We're here to help you succeed in your career, advocate for public school students, and stay up to date on the latest education news. Sign up to stay informed.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.