Nation’s ‘Best Communities for Music Education’

CVESD Named Among Nation’s ‘Best Communities for Music Education’
Posted on 05/10/2018
Logo of Best Communities for Music Education

The Chula Vista Elementary School District was recently honored with the “Best Communities for Music Education” designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.


The Best Communities for Music Education honor is bestowed upon districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in providing music access and education to all students. To qualify for the Best Communities designation, CVESD answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.


“This award further validates our collective efforts to strengthen and enhance the arts as part of our broader goal to develop the ‘whole’ child,” said CVESD Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D. “There is ample evidence to support the connection between academic success and the arts. This is a tremendous honor that has been years in the making, involving numerous arts organizations, students, and families. We couldn’t be prouder.”


In 2010, CVESD collaborated with the San Diego Youth Symphony (SDYS) and Conservatory to establish an after-school music program in two high-economic need elementary schools. Called “Community Opus,” the program was inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema music education initiative and was an immediate hit in the pilot schools. Six more campuses followed with Opus programs of their own. Their success became the catalyst for the District’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) strategic plan, which in turn primed the Board of Education for a critical funding decision in 2014-15. That’s when the Board Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot is among CVESD's VAPA supporters.announced the District would hire full-time arts instructors and provide VAPA instruction during the school day for all students. The commitment was backed by the Board’s landmark $15 million investment in teacher collaboration/art instruction, spread over three years.


Today, 86 VAPA teachers provide programs in Music, Dance, Theater, and Media/Visual Arts. The investment in VAPA was among the services funded by the District’s Local Control and Accountability Plan.


“This award is a culmination of all the efforts of our students, families, and teachers,” said Lauren Shelton, the District’s Coordinator for VAPA. “Thanks to the support of our Board, District leaders, and organizations like the City of Chula Vista, we’ve been able to revitalize the arts across the District for all students.”


Chula Vista’s arts initiative has attracted a host of high-profile partners, such as the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot, among others. Recognition has flowed Chula Vista’s way as well, with honors from the prestigious Yale School of Music. In addition, in 2016, the Board was recognized by the California School Boards Association (CSBA) with a Golden Bell Award for excellence in VAPA.


Last week, San Diego Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, internationally acclaimed conductor Rafael Payare, visited the District’s Halecrest Elementary to hear Community Opus musicians. Born in 1980, Payare himself is a graduate of the celebrated El Sistema in his native Venezuela. He met with local arts supporters and dignitaries at Halecrest, including Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas.The VAPA strategic plan includes sequential arts instruction and arts integration.


“We are thrilled that the Chula Vista Elementary School District has been recognized for its successful efforts to infuse music and arts into the classroom,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. “We agree that Chula Vista is one of the Best Communities for Music and Education!”


The Best Communities for Music Education award, the latest in a string of honors for CVESD, recognizes that Chula Vista schools are leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation guides implementation in the states and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was often criticized for an overemphasis on testing-while leaving behind subjects such as music. ESSA, meanwhile, recommends music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children. 


By the next school year, 20 CVESD schools will have a VH1 Save the Music Foundation instrument grant. Among those schools, Montgomery Elementary was selected to be part of a national network of campuses that use the arts to strategically support student learning and school improvement efforts.


Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational and social skill benefits for children who make music. In a series of landmark studies by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University, a link was found between students in community music programs and lifelong academic success, including higher high school graduation rates and college attendance. In another study from Northwestern, it was discovered that early exposure to music education improves how the brain processes and assimilates sounds, a trait that lasts well into adulthood.


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


Locally based researchers are studying how music enlarges certain important areas of the brain. After Community Opus was launched, SDYS staff collaborated with the University of California, San Diego, Center for Human Development, faculty on a scientific study. CVESD’s Opus students served as subjects of a 5-year longitudinal test of the effects of learning music on children’s brains and the general cognitive skills like language and attention. It tracked 60 children annually starting at ages 5-10 as they engaged in ensemble music training using an extensive battery of neural and behavioral testing.


“We’ve found some strong effects on language skills,” said UCSD cognitive scientist Terry Iversen, Ph.D. “There are a number of tests of phonetic processing, phonetic awareness where …music kids are doing significantly better than control (group) kids.”


Iverson said there is a link between brain structure and individual differences. “Music has value for potentially every child,” he said. “Many people get tremendous enjoyment out of playing music at an amateur level. That, of all the benefits of music, is perhaps the strongest—to bring that ability to enjoy making music together into our lives has a profound impact.”


Dr. Escobedo said it is apparent that music spurs innovation and creativity. Everyone gains from more creative children, he said. “When you make the arts a priority, you help transform the entire community,” Dr. Escobedo said.


About the Chula Vista Elementary School District

The Chula Vista Elementary School District is the largest Transitional Kindergarten through Grade 6 district in California. CVESD serves more than 29,600 students at 46 schools in southern San Diego County. In 2010, the District and the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory launched the “Community Opus Project” as an after-school program at two schools with high populations of students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. Community Opus grew to six campuses. Today, in addition to after-school arts programs, 86 Visual and Performing Arts teachers provide instruction in Music, Dance, Theater, and Media/Visual Arts as part of the instructional day. The District’s investment in VAPA was among the services funded in large part by its Local Control and Accountability Plan.


The NAMM Foundation

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. For more information about the NAMM Foundation, please visit

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