National Museum Of African American Music And The CMA Foundation Announce Partnership

Partnership Will Expand Songwriting Education in Metro Nashville Public Schools and Feature Mentorship from Country Artists BRELAND, Willie Jones, Reyna Roberts and Tiera


The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) and the CMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, have announced a partnership that will bring the museum’s collaborative project, Music Legends & Heroes, to select high schools within Metro Nashville Public Schools. As part of the Music Legends & Heroes program, several musicians including Country artists BRELAND, Willie Jones, Reyna Roberts and Tiera will mentor students, sharing their histories and answering questions about the industry. Focusing on engaging the students in learning the impact of African Americans on music and songwriting, the program encourages leadership, teamwork and mentorship, and will allow students to take a leadership role in organizing and implementing a live virtual performance element at their school.

The CMA Foundation and NMAAM share a commitment to providing abundant resources and experiences for students through the vehicle of music. In addition to the CMA Foundation’s continued work in providing students with the opportunity to participate in making music, the organization also recognizes exposure to the music business and the creative process is how others may find their entry point into music making. Often, students do not see themselves in the music that is being taught within the four walls of a classroom. Rather than discounting or assuming students are not interested, exploring ways to both engage students authentically while sharing what is possible allows for more equitable opportunities in public schools.

“NMAAM and the CMA Foundation have long shared the same mission of supporting Nashville schools through extensive music education and programs, so this partnership was a natural fit,” says Tamar Smithers, NMAAM Director of Education and Public Programs. “Through our Museum Without Walls program, NMAAM has already reached more than 132,000 individuals through our programming, and we hope this is just the beginning of our work with the CMA Foundation to share our message across the city.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the National Museum of African American Music, which has already become an important fixture in the downtown Nashville landscape,” says Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “NMAAM’s mission to educate the world, preserve the legacy and celebrate the role African Americans play in creating the American soundtrack goes beyond any single genre. We are delighted to work alongside Henry Hicks and his team on the Music Legends & Heroes program, which will provide students the opportunity to learn about all genres of music.”

Prior to the museum’s opening in January of 2021, the NMAAM education team hosted several educational programs, including From Nothing to Something, a program where students learn and explore the musical history, techniques and stories of the past, and its famous Sips and Stanzas program, which consists of a monthly conversation about music and its impact on American culture with local artists.

“We are honored to have this opportunity to partner with the National Museum of African American Music in bringing a special program like this to our schools, with the goal being to expand accessibility to music,” says Tiffany Kerns, CMA Foundation Executive Director. “We have seen time and time again that music unlocks the creative capacity of our students. Having African American artists shaping Country Music share insights about the business and the art of songwriting allows students to imagine what is possible. We appreciate programs like Music Legends & Heroes for valuing the importance of representation. All too often, youth do not see themselves in Country Music, and removing barriers of entry has always been and will remain a core focus of the CMA Foundation.”

Since 2006, the CMA Foundation has invested more than $12 million in Metro Nashville Public Schools through a variety of music education programs, all aimed to support the 86,000 students by providing access and participation in a high-quality music education.

Music Legends & Heroes will conclude in June with a songwriting contest for participants to write a song with their class based on Black history and Black musicians, artists or activists. The program is expected to reach more than 200 students across Nashville.


The National Museum of African American Music is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to preserving African American music traditions and celebrating the central role African Americans have played in shaping American music. Based in Nashville, Tenn., the museum shares the story of the American soundtrack by integrating history and interactive technology to honor the musical heroes of African American music of the past and the present. For more information, please visit

About the CMA Foundation

Established in 2011 as the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association (CMA), the CMA Foundation is committed to improving and sustaining high-quality music education programs across the United States, working to ensure every child has the opportunity to participate in music. Through strategic partnerships, professional development and grant distribution, the CMA Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), invests various resources across the national public school system, after school programs, summer camps and community outreach organizations.

Photo Credit: Alaina Mullin
Willie Jones
Photo Credit: Gordon Clark
Reyna Roberts
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Photo Credit: Kamren Kennedy