The CMA Foundation Expands Its Tennessee: State Of The Arts Initiative In Partnership With The Tennessee Department Of Education

School Districts Statewide Can Now Apply for Free Arts Program Needs Assessment at

The CMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, has announced the expansion of its Tennessee: State of the Arts initiative, an effort that will further offer strategic financial support for arts programs in each of the 147 public school districts across the state of Tennessee. Today, administrators from each district can visit to apply for a free needs assessment of their arts program in an effort to determine inequities that exist, which will allow the CMA Foundation to offer impactful solutions benefitting students throughout the entire state. Today’s announcement comes as the CMA Foundation is in the midst of celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“We have learned a lot about our identity as a music education nonprofit throughout the last 10 years, but I think one of our greatest learnings has been that in order to provide impactful solutions, you need to rely on data and research to truly understand inequities that exist,” says Tiffany Kerns, CMA Foundation Executive Director. “Our expanded needs assessments will allow every district across the state of Tennessee to think strategically about arts access, while also addressing quality issues and strengthening relationships with arts educators. We are firm believers that no dollar is wasted when you are addressing actual needs versus making assumptions. When we can equip public school districts with accurate data, we are able to better prioritize our funding to provide the most impact while also helping our district partners to create long-term strategies.”

Originally launched in 2018, the CMA Foundation’s Tennessee: State of the Arts initiative is a public-private partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education, which provided an initial $1 million investment to offer financial support to eight public school districts across the state—Bradley, Coffee, Gibson SSD, Greene, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby and Warren—each district geographically representing a wide range of needs by region. Funding was made available to the eight districts beginning in May of 2019, which covered professional development for music teachers, additional music supplies, materials and equipment to address equity challenges, or expansion of local music education outreach programs.

Affectionately coined the “Excellent Eight,” these eight districts represent approximately 20% of the student population in Tennessee, which provided the CMA Foundation with a strong indication of what is happening across the state when it comes to music education. Since the launch of the initiative, the CMA Foundation has gained a wealth of knowledge from each of the eight districts, all of which have incredibly unique needs. Common threads emerged: the need for high-quality instructional materials and curriculum, educator development, equipment and instructional supplies, student intervention, remediation and enrichment, and innovative programming. The initiative has paved the way for the CMA Foundation to test solutions-based funding with different types of districts across the state.

The next phase of the State of the Arts program is to develop an understanding of the criteria necessary for establishing high-quality arts education programs and discover barriers affecting the quality of arts education programming in order to better inform policymaking, district strategic planning, development of resources and support systems, and investment/philanthropic activities by conducting the State of the Arts Study, a first-of-its-kind statewide arts education landscape analysis. The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, one of the CMA Foundation’s long-standing music education partners, will conduct each needs assessment. For 25 years, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation has addressed vital needs in public school music programs and school districts. The organization has become a valuable partner in realizing the CMA Foundation’s vision for change, access, and sustainability in arts education.

“The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation applauds the Tennessee Department of Education and the CMA Foundation for recognizing the tremendous impact arts education has on youth development and for utilizing our Music (and Arts) Education District Support Services (MEDSS®) to conduct this important State of the Arts Study,” says Tricia Williams, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation Program Director. “These assessments will inform school, district and state decision-makers as to the current state of arts education at every school and the resources and support needed in order for all students to have access to quality, sequential and sustainable arts programming. This State of the Arts Study will position the state of Tennessee as a leader in the nation utilizing the power of community specific, data-driven information to address and eliminate core issues challenging arts education.”

For more information about the expansion of the CMA Foundation’s Tennessee: State of the Arts initiative, visit