Music Ecosystems

A music ecosystem is the network of music-making people, places, and systems that characterize a city’s music and cultural life.

U.S. cities vary widely in size, population, history, assets, and challenges, and there is no one-size-fits-all model of how to expand students’ access to music.  Instead we’ve gathered stories of music ecosystems across the nation, focusing on how communities work together, leveraging their strengths and assets to create music opportunities for their students.

Share your stories of how music ecosystems are enriching the music lives of students in U.S. cities.


Nashville, TN

Nashville, Tennessee—known affectionately as America’s “Music City”—is home to Music Makes Us, a vibrant public/private partnership between Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Mayor’s Office, and dozens of music industry and community partners. Leveraging the city’s unique mix of philanthropists, community leaders, commercial, education and nonprofit organizations, Music Makes Us affirms music’s role as an essential component of a well-rounded education. The initiative builds on traditional school music by adding contemporary curricula, new technologies, and reflecting the diversity of the Nashville student population.

Newark, NJ

A city-wide alliance of public and private stakeholders have committed to developing a collaborative ecosystem “to ensure that all children in grades PK through 12 in the city of Newark have equitable access to high quality, sequential arts education opportunities, both in and out of school.”  A variety of funders are focusing specifically on returning instrumental music opportunities to Newark Public Schools.

Chula Vista, CA

The city of Chula Vista—part of metropolitan San Diego and located less than ten miles from the Mexican-American border—is home to Chula Vista Elementary School District, the largest K-6 district in California.

In 2010, the district entered a partnership with the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory in two high-need schools on the west side of the city.  What began as a small pilot program blossomed into a district-wide transformation in students’ access to music at school.  In the 2014-15 school year—after 15 years of no in-school music education—the CVESD school board announced its commitment to hire full-time music instructors and provide music and arts instruction during the school day for all students.

New Haven, CT

In partnership with New Haven Public Schools, our local activities are the practical core of the Music in Schools Initiative. They enhance music opportunities for New Haven students and music educators, while simultaneously preparing our international body of graduate students to be teaching artists. Our teaching artists complement the work of full-time certified music educators during school hours, while also offering opportunities for students to participate in intensive supplementary programs. All activities are centered around the core principles of mentorship—a close personal relationship between instructor and student based on mutual learning—and active music-making— creating, performing, and responding to music.