Music Education Policy Updates

Latest Update:

9/8/21: Aerosol Study Mitigation Strategies for Performing Arts in Schools

New Fall Guidance for 2021-22 School Year

The International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study has released updated guidelines for music education classrooms for the fall. The guidance updates previous mitigation tactics with the understanding that states need to consult local and state COVID-19 guidance and transmission rates for appropriate mitigation adoption and adjust accordingly.

NAMM members are urged to share this information with your local and state networks now, as students return to in-person learning.

Updated guidelines are as follows:


  • No mitigation is needed for outdoor performances depending on the level of local and state transmission rates. Outdoors remain the safest space for performances


  • Masking with appropriate material remains the best way of reducing potential infected aerosol from circulating in an indoor space. Masks are recommended to be worn while singing and speaking.
  • Bell covers made from appropriate material remain the best way of reducing potential infected aerosol from circulating in an indoor space.
  • Depending on your comfort level, instrumentalists can wear masks only when speaking and slitted performance masks are optional.
  • In spaces with good ventilation rates and HEPA filtration, increased indoor rehearsal times of 50 minutes may be considered. A minimum of 3 air exchanges per hour should be used, if there are spaces with higher air change rates, you may consider longer rehearsal times.
  • Distancing may be decreased to 3 feet, adjusting farther or closer depending on local conditions.
  • Continue good hygiene practice moving forward, including appropriate elimination of brass fluid.
  • Plastic face shields only stop large droplets, not aerosol; room dividers inhibit the function of the HVAC system and are not recommended

Recently, Dr. James Weaver (National Federation of High School Associations), Dr. Mark Spede, (College Band Directors National Association/Clemson University), and Bob Morrison (Arts Ed New Jersey) recorded an important conversation on mitigations and recommendations for various music, speech, debate, and theater activities.

During this in-depth conversation, Dr. Spede reminded viewers, “The recommendations published by the International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study are truly science based. When followed, they do mitigate transmission of coronavirus. Those seeking to circumvent those mitigation practices by canceling music programs are not following the science.” Dr. Weaver urged music educators to engage music students outdoors when the weather permits, and to be prepared to share the facts with administrators regarding mitigation strategies so vital performing arts programs can continue as students return indoors.

 “We have more science-based strategies for the performing arts than many other academic or athletic activities” said Bob Morrison, “we’ve taken this very seriously and we know what protocols to put in place so that our programs can continue.”   

Watch the 35-minute video

Index time stamps:

  • 0:00 Welcome
  • 0:41 Differences in State & Local Health Recommendations
  • 2:51 Mitigation Strategies & Risk Assessment
  • 6:30 Aerosol Particles (Distribution/Size)
  • 9:47 Speech & Debate
  • 11:55 Theater
  • 15:15 Elementary Music (Singing & Recorders)
  • 19:47 Music (Vocal & Instrumental)
  • 25:40 Air Change Rate
  • 29:28 Shields & Partitions
  • 30:39 Next Steps

Visit the Aerosol Study Homepage

NAMM Advocacy Resources: 


  • 5/27/21: U.S. Dept. Ed Issues Guidance for the ESSER and the GEER Programs, including Funding for Music and Arts Programs

    5/27/21: U.S. Dept. Ed Issues Guidance for the ESSER and the GEER Programs, including Funding for Music and Arts Programs

    Background: Since 2020, Congress has allocated COVID relief funding through the Education Stabilization Fund, for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER).

    This week the U.S. Department of Education issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to address how funding under the ESSER Fund, including the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and the GEER Fund may be used in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students in pre-K-12 education.

    The FAQs cover the allowable use of ESSER and GEER funds, including recommendations specific to music and arts programs: "An LEA might also address the needs of students arising from the COVID-19 pandemic by using ESSER and GEER funds to implement or expand arts programs, such as music programs, including purchasing instruments…” pg. 30 - How may an LEA use ESSER and GEER funds to support students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs, including by hiring support personnel such as nurses, counselors, and social workers?

    Other than statutory and regulatory requirements cited in the document, guidance generally does not have the force of law.  Guidance, however, often provides clarity on policies and how funding may be accessed or used. 

    CALL TO ACTION: Since Governors have wide discretion in determining the entities in the State that will receive GEER funds, NAMM urges advocates to use the email template to reach out to their respective Governor, encouraging him or her  to ensure that every child receives the needed resources and support from school and community for their education and developmental needs, including access to robust music and arts education programs.

    Additional information and updates may be found on the Department’s website below or by e-mail to  for questions related to ESSER, or  for questions related to GEER.

  • 5/27/21: Music Advocacy Action Alerts for the Return To School

    As students return to in-person learning, State and Federal lawmakers, and education leaders must be urged to meet all students' needs and assure opportunities for a well-rounded education, including music and the arts.

    Three easy action steps:

    Step 1 Remind your State and Federal lawmakers that all students must have access to a well-rounded education that includes Music and the Arts as students return to in-school learning.

    Use these easy template tools to contact your State Representatives and your Federal Representatives. Please consider customizing your messages and sharing this information with your local elected officials and community leaders via your personal email outreach and social media postings.

    Step 2 Visit the Arts ARE Education campaign site and:

    • Sign the Pledge. Any individual and/or organization can sign.
    • Reach out to your School District and ask them to pass the Arts ARE Education Resolution
    • Reach out to your music educator network and ask them to: Sign the Pledge; Urge their district school board to pass the Resolution, and spread the word.

    Step 3 Start a conversation with your School or District Administrators. Remind them that we must include and music and arts education as we address the health, social, and emotional well-being of all students as they return to school. Big decisions for the Fall 2021 school season are being made now. Let’s work to remind our public servants that Arts ARE Education. Now more than ever.

  • 3/25/21: U.S. Dept. of Ed Issues State ARP ESSER Award Notification

    This week the U.S. Department of Education issued a Grant Award Notification providing immediate access to two-thirds of each state’s allocation under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. The remaining funds will become available after the submission of state applications next month.

    Secretary Cardona has called on states to use ARP funding to offer crucial evidence-based summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs; support early childhood education; invest in staff capacity and avoid devastating layoffs. (Register for the U.S. Dept of Ed 3/29/21 Summer Learning Webinar)

    State educational agencies and school districts are developing plans to expend these funds and this planning must receive input from stakeholders and the public.

    Action Alert: NAMM members are urged to contact their State Lawmakers and local school districts now to ensure that Music and Arts education is included in all plans for in-person and remote education this summer and the 2021-22 school year.

  • 3/17/21: US Dept of Education Announces ARP Fund Allocations

    The U.S. Department of Education announced today the amount of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funding that each state, PR and DC will receive to reopen K-12 schools safely this month, as well as equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding is being made available to State education agencies for schools to implement health and safety measures consistent with CDC guidance and to address the teaching and learning disruptions resulting from the pandemic.

    Today’s announcement supplements previous State Allocation announcements from the US Dept. of Education: ESSER I in Dec. 2020, and ESSER II in Jan. 2021.

    NAMM members are urged to contact their state, and local school officials to assure that all students – remote and in person – have access to a well-rounded education that includes music and the arts.

    Read the March 17, ARP ESSER fact sheet and allocation tables.

  • 3/2/21: NAMM Advocacy Alert Webinar Recording

    Become a champion for music education as part of March Music in Our School Month. Together, we must remind elected officials on the federal, state, and local levels along with school administrators that music instruction is essential part of a well-rounded education for all students and must be included in all back-to-school plans.

    An advocacy briefing webinar took place on March 2 to overview targeted and general outreach to Members of Congress. During the webinar, key messages, action steps and templates were provided, for immediate outreach to elected officials. 

    We envision a world in which the joy of making music is a precious element of daily living for everyone; a world in which every child has a deep desire to learn music and a recognized right to be taught, and in which every adult is a passionate champion and defender of that right.  Please join us as we work together now more than ever to make this vision a reality.

  • 7/7/20: NAMM Advocacy Webinar Featuring John B. King, Jr., former Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education

    Watch the Webinar

    “If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu” - Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation  

    Join us on July 7 to hear from special guest John B. King, Jr., former Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education and current CEO of The Education Trust, an equity-driven, data-centered, student-focused organization of “Fierce advocates for the high academic achievement of all students—particularly those of color or living in poverty.” His experience as former Secretary of Education and as President and CEO of The Education Trust will provide invaluable insight into how to effect change through concentrated, authentic outreach from community members. King’s leadership and commitment to equity and access to education for all children is a great resource and will be a “call to action” for how to contribute with passion and commitment to bring music education to all children. 

    Attendees will also receive music education advocacy updates during break-out sessions where working advocates will report on their activity at the Federal, State, and Local levels.  

    Host: Mary Luehrsen, Director of Public Affairs, NAMM and Executive Director, The NAMM Foundation

    Special Guest: John B. King, Jr., former Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education and current CEO of The Education Trust

    John B. King, Jr. is the president and CEO of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close educational opportunity and achievement gaps. King served as U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama administration. Prior to that role, King carried out the duties of Deputy Secretary, overseeing policies and programs related to P-12 education, English learners, special education, innovation, and agency operations. King joined the department following his post as New York State Education Commissioner. King began his career as a high school social studies teacher and middle school principal.

  • U.S. Department of Ed Issues COVID-19 Handbook

    The U.S. Department of Education has issued a COVID-19 Handbook, Volume I, to support school re-opening. The handbook cites schools should continue to offer music, performing arts, physical education, health education, and athletics programs as part of a well-rounded education for all students during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

    Specifically, the handbook outlines mitigations for music instruction, including: “For music and performing arts, CDC recommends masks be worn by all students and staff when not playing an instrument that requires the use of their mouth (unless the program is outdoors and at least 6 feet of distance can be maintained). When singing, individuals should wear a mask. Schools can consider holding music and performing arts classes outside or in an open environment or under an open tent, if safe from other hazards, such as heat, cold, and air pollution. If the class is held indoors, ensure that it occurs in healthy facilities, including by optimizing previously described, cohorting/podding is another option to minimize class size. Teachers can use a portable amplifier to keep voices at a low, conversational volume and should limit the exchange (or sharing) of any instruments, parts, music sheets, or any other items. Depending on the instrument, disposable absorbent pads or other receptacles, where possible, should be provided to catch the contents of spit valves. Teachers can consider using “bell covers” for the openings of brass instruments and specially designed bags* with hand openings for woodwind instruments to minimize the generation of droplets and aerosols.”

    The guidance also recommends that planning for school reopening should include student and parent representatives so that specific interests and legal requirements are considered in the early stages of planning.

    ED will release additional volumes of the Handbook providing specific strategies to address the extraordinary disruption created by COVID-19 for students, educators, and parents – especially for historically underserved students and communities that preliminary data suggest have been hit hardest by the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also will be issuing resources to support early childhood education providers.

    *NAMM is monitoring this issue closely and is working with partner organizations to request changes and updates to CDC and the U.S. Dept of Ed Handbook recommendations for ongoing music education to meet the learning and health needs of all students. Check this site frequently for updates.

    More information may be found here: U.S. Department of Education 

  • CDC Issues Roadmap for School Reopening

    On February 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance providing a “roadmap” to assist school districts and educators in making decisions on whether to fully or partially reopen schools and the type of safeguards needed to keep students, teachers, and staff safe during the pandemic.

    The CDC guidance indicates that schools can safely reopen as long as they are in an area considered low to moderate transmission and if a number of precautions are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The update is based on data, building on earlier recommendations on the most effective safety precautions including masks, physical distancing, hand washing, respiratory etiquette, contract tracing, ventilation, and building cleaning.

    The guidance notes, “If mitigation strategies are strictly adhered to, K-12 schools can safely open for in-person instruction and remain open. In addition, the association between COVID-19 incidence and outbreaks in school settings and levels of community transmission underscores the importance of controlling disease spread in the community to protect teachers, staff, and students in schools.”

    The CDC reiterated that states should prioritize teachers for vaccination but with the proviso that such vaccinations are not required for reopening.

    The newly-released guidance does not vary widely from previously-issued CDC recommendations. It does, however, include a color-coded chart / fact sheet with four zones that, depending on the color, provides recommendations for a school district’s re-opening options. Blue indicates districts with low community spread of the coronavirus and yellow is for districts with data showing moderate transmission. These areas are encouraged to consider full reopening.

    Schools in areas with substantial transmission – the color orange – could consider limited reopening – but only in combination with significant classroom safety strategies. Red is for areas with the highest transmission. In these communities, limited reopening remains an option for elementary schools with strict physical distancing, but the CDC recommends middle and high schools be remote-learning only -- unless significant mitigation measures can be implemented. For further information:

    The U.S. Department of Education has also released guidance. NAMM will continue to closely monitor this important issue.

  • National Arts Ed Advocacy Campaign 

    Arts ARE Education is a new national campaign designed to support the ongoing value of music and the arts for PreK-12 students in the post-pandemic era.

    As states face budget shortfalls due to the recession created by the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers must be reminded of the importance of fully funding public education to support all students and their right to a well-rounded education including music and the arts. Having states commit adequate funding for public education will be the first step toward maintaining, rebuilding and growing arts programs to reach more students in the 2021-2022 school year and beyond. 

    The general public, NAMM members and their school/parent networks are encouraged to reach out to state legislators using the templated letter tool below to urge that they fully fund public education for next school year.

    State Legislator Letter Tool

    To learn about ways to connect with and support music and arts education in your own school district, please visit the Arts ARE Education campaign website for school board resolution, advocate pledge, tools and more.

    Arts Are Education website and toolkit

  • Fall 2020 Guidance for Music Education

    Created by NAMM partners, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the Fall 2020 Guidance for Music Education document provides practical guidance for PreK-12 schools as administrators and music educators seek to provide meaningful music instruction for students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In this unique time, music educators are modifying their practices not only in teaching, but in classroom orientation, cleaning, spacing and management. It is understood that, as trained professionals, music educators want to offer the very best instruction so all students can learn and grow in their knowledge, understanding, and love of music. This guide asserts that music educators can still do that, but also acknowledges that how this teaching is delivered may be different than in the past.

    NAMM members are encouraged to distribute this valuable resource to school music networks, state and district administrators and school boards, as soon as possible.