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Schoolhouse Rock: Words & Music Program Turns 35

May 19, 2014
Exterior of Country Music Hall of Fame taken from a drone.

Singer-Songwriter Elizabeth Cook to Host Annual Words & Music Night
Wednesday, May 21

NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 19, 2014 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s cornerstone education program, Words & Music, is celebrating 35 years of connecting school children with professional songwriters for a one-of-a-kind lesson in musical composition and language skills.

“Education is our primary mission, and Words & Music is what that mission looks like in action,” said Kyle Young, museum director. “Nearly 100,000 students have passed through the program since its inception. Over the past three and a half decades, we have only seen demand and excitement for Words & Music grow—proof that this unique interdisciplinary language arts program is more relevant today than ever. We couldn’t be prouder of this unique course we’ve developed, which embodies our commitment not only to our beloved Nashville, but to the entire global learning community.”

On May 21, Nashville participants and their families will fill Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Ford Theater for Words & Music Night, the annual year-end festivities featuring performances of original songs composed in the program by students. Hosted by singer-songwriter Elizabeth Cook, the invitation-only event begins at 6:00 p.m.

Words & Music offers classroom teachers a unique approach to standard language arts curriculum. An award-winning lesson guide created by the museum staff leads instructors through a step-by-step lyric-writing process that also connects to music, history, visual arts and math. Aligned to education standards, Words & Music also brings students into contact with Nashville’s vibrant creative community through an engaging interactive performance with a songwriter.

Young launched the Words & Music program in 1979, three years after joining the museum’s fulltime staff and establishing its education department. Since 2008, the Words & Music program has been made possible by the Country Music Association Endowment for Words & Music. In 2010, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the museum started Words & Music Outreach, a traveling program available throughout Davidson County and surrounding areas. In 2014, the NEA awarded a grant for the fifth year to help fund the initiative’s growing efforts in long-distance learning via videoconference for schools across North America.

Words & Music begins in the classroom when a trained teacher leads students through the lyric-writing process using the museum’s award-winning lesson guide. Next, completed lyrics are sent to the museum and shared with a songwriter trained to work with students. Finally, in an interactive workshop led by a songwriter, students hear selected lyrics as finished songs and learn more about the songwriting craft.

During the 2013-14 school year, more than 5,000 2nd through 12th grade students at 62 Tennessee schools wrote songs that were put to music by 30 professional songwriters. Eight hundred students from 12 schools across the United States and Canada participated in Words & Music through videoconference.

Educators around the world interested in participating in the Words & Music program, please contact

Elizabeth Cook is a country singer-songwriter from Wildwood, Florida. She moved to Nashville in the mid-1990s and signed a publishing deal within a year. She made her Grand Ole Opry debut in 2000 and has returned to the famous stage more than 300 times. She has released six albums, including her most recent, Gospel Plow, and 2010’s critically acclaimed Welder. Cook has a devoted Americana following and tours regularly. She also hosts the morning radio show Elizabeth Cook’s Apron Strings” on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country channel.

Words & Music is made possible by the Country Music Association Endowment for Words & Music. Words & Music Outreach is funded by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum education programs are funded in part by Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Additional support is provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Wells Fargo Foundation, Publix Supermarkets Charities, Target, Southwest Airlines, the Marylee Chaski Charitable Corporation and Connie Dean Taylor. Technology partners include Cisco Systems, PCS Knox, and Promethean.

Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at or by calling (615) 416-2001.

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