The CMA Foundation exists to provide financial support to worthwhile causes that are important to the Country Music Association and the Country Music community. The CMA Foundation places special emphasis on serving the needs of CMA’s core constituents and nonprofit organizations with initiatives that preserve the legacy of the format, music education, and respond to such other needs that may be identified in the future by the CMA.
Each year, hundreds of Country artists perform at CMA Music Festival for free, and to show its appreciation for their dedication and time, CMA donates half the net proceeds from the event to benefit music education programs on behalf of the artists and celebrities as part of a program called Keep the Music Playing.
The origins of the program began in 2001, when CMA Music Festival, then known as Fan Fair, moved to downtown Nashville for the first time. From 2001-2005, participating artists could select individual charities for donations and CMA contributed more than $800,000 to hundreds of worthy causes.
In 2006, the CMA Artist Relations Committee, led by Kix Brooks formerly of Brooks & Dunn, decided to channel those financial resources into a single cause – music education – through CMA’s “Keep the Music Playing” campaign to have a more meaningful impact in an area of importance to the entire music community.
When the program began, it had been more than 30 years since new instruments had been purchased for Metro Nashville Public Schools. Children were turned away from music programs because there weren’t enough instruments. In other cases, four to five students would share a single trombone. The instruments in the program where held together with duct tape by band directors since funding for necessary repairs was non-existent.
Through the generosity of the Country artist community, CMA has been able to donate $7.6 million to purchase more than 5,000 instruments providing students in Metro Nashville and abroad a strong reason to stay in school.
Studies show that students who participate in the arts are more likely to graduate. Metro’s performing arts students have a 98 percent graduation rate compared to 78 percent for the general population. See what the kids have to say!
Having recognized the impact of Keep the Music Playing on Metro Nashville schools, The CMA Foundation decided to expand the program by donating $20,000 to PS 103 Elementary School in The Bronx, New York. The grant was used to equip two brand new music classrooms with instruments and curriculum. CMA Award winning artist, Dierks Bentley, was on hand for the donation, toured the classrooms, and was able to meet many of the children that the donation impacted.
Donations to date
With over $7 million contributed to date, funds have been used to build music labs, provide sound and lighting equipment for school auditoriums, and purchase thousands of instruments for the district’s 144 public schools. CMA currently donates the Keep the Music Playing funds to the Nashville Public Education Foundation, formerly the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, which works directly with Metro Schools to purchase instruments at a discounted rate.
The total also includes a $1 million endowment gift for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Words and Music” program, which assists language arts and music teachers with classroom instruction in the basics of songwriting, and includes a donation in July 2009 to cover travel costs for 40 students from W.O. Smith School of Music to attend a Country-themed music event at the White House.
“Be Instrumental” Instrument Drives
Keep the Music Playing also encourages communities to support their local band programs by donating used musical instruments during “Be Instrumental” instrument drives. The instruments will be refurbished and put into the hands of a music student. Country artist Jimmy Wayne was on-hand to collect instruments during the inaugural “Be Instrumental” drive at the 2009 CMA Music Festival in Nashville. American Idol finalist Bo Bice even hand-delivered his own mint condition clarinet during the event.
All Stars Concert
Held annually at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert honors the best elementary, middle, and high school music programs in Metro Nashville Public Schools by giving them the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform on a world class stage. Country star Scotty McCreery hosted the 2013 event in February and performed “The River,” written by CMA board member Victoria Shaw, with students from Sylvan Park Elementary.
All Stars Marching Band
Since 2011, the Keep the Music Playing All Stars Marching Band has performed in the CMA Music Festival Kick Off Parade. The marching band is comprised of the top band students from many of Metro’s public high schools and is under the direction of a different band director each year.