CMA Award Winner Suzy Bogguss passing the music on…

If it wasn’t for such American icons as Jimmie Driftwood, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie and many others re-inventing and passing on the roots of country and folk music for future generations many of the old songs and musical styles would be lost. One of the major ways of protecting the traditions of music, whether it be classical or folk, used to be in schools, where music was an integral part of the curriculum. But increasingly, both in the UK, America and it must be feared in other parts of the world, music has been deemed by the schools’ hierarchy as unimportant. In the battle to meet performance levels of excellence, based entirely on exam results, rather than overall education and the basics of learning, music, an integral part of life, has been removed from the school curriculum due to financial cutbacks, with the result that traditional songs and music are being lost to current and future generations.

The Nashville-based Country Music Association is at the forefront of correcting this imbalance by making huge financial and artistic contributions to schools and one of the artists helping them to achieve that is Suzy Bogguss. The singer’s latest album, WILDWOOD FLOWER: A Collection of American Folk Songs brings together simple, but highly effective renditions of such classic songs as Shady Grove, Banks Of the Ohio, Wayfaring Stranger and Beautiful Dreamer. The CD and companion songbook were created to help educate a new generation of fans about the classic American folk tradition. When talking about this album a year or so ago Suzy said:

“Garrison Keillor’s popular radio show, the Prairie Home Companion has been broadcast every week for about 30 years. I’ve been a huge fan of the show for years and a couple of summers ago, when Garrison invited me to join his tour I jumped at the chance. It was a real whirlwind tour; we played 25 shows, flying from one city to the next, and every show was completely different. During an intermission Garrison would engage the audience in joining him in song. One night it might be Everly Brothers songs or the Beatles or old folk songs. That really got me thinking about my own musical roots. In a lot of the public schools in the States today they no longer have music programmes like we had when I was growing up. The old folk songs are just dying out. My own son, Ben, who’s now fifteen, is not familiar with them. To me, these old folk songs are our heritage, and so, that is what has inspired me to record this new album. It will be all acoustic. No drums, very old timey, with lots of fiddle, Dobro and mandolin, although it won’t be a bluegrass album. Pat Bergeson and I are laying down the basic tracks and we might put a bit of bass on later, but it will be a ‘live’ performance, with us sitting in the same room together. It’s not a very produced album. It’s more about being able to sing the melody and just remember to be reverent of the songs.”

On January 31, 2012 Suzy joined the Glengarry Elementary Singers for the Keep the Music Playing All Star’s Concert at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville. Hosted by RCA recording artist and two-time CMA Award nominee Chris Young, CMA’s Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert honoured several of the brightest music groups from Metro Nashville Public Schools that have benefited from CMA’s Keep the Music Playing programme.

The CMA Foundation is donating $1.4 million, to benefit music education programmes for Nashville’s 78,000 public school students, from 2011 CMA Music Festival through the Keep the Music Playing campaign. This latest donation raises CMA’s Keep the Music Playing support of music education in public schools from $4.7 million to more than $6.1 million. This money has been used to build music labs and purchase more than 4,000 instruments, and much needed supplies for 80 Metro Nashville Public Schools through a partnership with the Nashville Public Education Foundation (formerly known as the Nashville Alliance for Public Education).

Suzy Bogguss receives a group hug from the Glengarry Elementary following their rehearsal for CMA’s Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert held at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Photographer: Amanda Eckard / CMA

The $1.4 million donation includes $200,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Words & Music programme, which assists language, arts and music teachers with classroom instruction in the basics of songwriting. CMA established a $1 million endowment gift for the programme
in 2007 with a $200,000 annual gift.

Suzy Bogguss and the Glengarry Elementary Singers pose following their rehearsal for CMA’s Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert held at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Photographer: Amanda Eckard / CMA

In 2006, the CMA Artist Relations Committee established the Keep the Music Playing programme to give back to the community on behalf of the hundreds of Country artists who perform and make appearances at CMA Music Festival for free. The announcement of the 2011 CMA Music Festival donation was made at a reception prior to the Third CMA Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on January 31. The All Stars Concert honours the best elementary, middle, and high school performance groups selected from 133 Metro Nashville Public Schools.

The Bellevue Middle School Band performs during CMA’s Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Photographer: Donn Jones / CMA

RCA recording artist and two-time CMA Award nominee Chris Young hosted the concert and was on hand for the donation announcement, which was attended by MNPS band directors and music teachers, as well as representatives from the CMA Foundation, CMA Board of Directors, Music City Music Council and Nashville Public Education Foundation.
A Middle-Tennessee native, Young understands the importance of music education in Music City and has supported the cause by appearing at the CMA Music Festival for the past eight years. “Music has had such a profound influence in every aspect of my life” declares Young. “I cannot stress how important it is for young people to continue to have the ability to participate in music programmes. I'm proud I've had the opportunity to take part in this Keep The Music Playing event.”

Chris Young performs with Nashville School of the Arts students Mignon Grabois and Charley Woods during CMA’s Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert ight at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. (l-r) Grabois, Young, and Woods.
Photographer: Donn Jones / CMA

Special guest Suzy Bogguss has made music education a personal mission with her latest project, American Folk Songbook.. Bogguss performed two songs from the book with students from Glengarry Elementary School.
“The kids and I had a blast working these songs up,” said Bogguss. “They showed me their wonderful instruments they received from the CMA Music Festival with great pride, and they played and sang their little hearts out!”
“Nashville is blessed with a lot of people and organisations that put resources toward our public schools and improving education in our city, but I can think of no other organisation that takes dollars and uses them to put resources directly in the hands of our students on the scale that the CMA does every year,” said Mayor Karl Dean. “It is truly an amazing gift. CMA’s support for music education in Nashville, along with our Music Makes Us initiative, is helping us achieve our ultimate goal in Music City, and that’s to provide all of our students with the opportunity to succeed.”

Suzy Bogguss performs with the Glengarry Elementary Singers during CMA’s Keep the Music Playing All Stars Concert at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Photographer: Donn Jones / CMA

Mayor Dean last year launched Music Makes Us, an overhaul of the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ music programme to include a new contemporary curriculum that better reflects today’s diverse musical landscape.

“Putting instruments in the hands of children is one of the most important initiatives undertaken by CMA on behalf of our artists,” said Steve Moore, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “Supporting music education is an investment in the future of our city and our industry. It is an honour to nurture these young performers and provide them with the resources and opportunities they need and deserve.”

It is fantastic that the CMA and artists like Suzy Bogguss and Chris Young have become involved in projects like this and are working in tandem with the schools and education facilities in and around Nashville. We can only hope that more organisations like the CMA and artists and performers from other musical genres around the world can get involved in musical education in their own locality. I’ve always believed that music is the one international language that we can all understand and relate to and it’s important that today’s generation and future generations receive a solid musical education that encompasses the past, present and future of creating music.