This story was also a press release distributed to local media outlets on 4.20.2022.

The Mount Vernon School has been honored with the SupportMusic Merit Award from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. The SupportMusic Merit Award recognizes individual schools that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. Mount Vernon was the only independent school in the state of Georgia to be recognized on the list of 80 organizations nationwide.

“Our arts program is driven by the mission of Mount Vernon, to be a school of inquiry, innovation and impact – this has led us to build programs that foster mental/physical wellness, illuminate diverse narratives, and connect our students to the creative industry “ said Matthew Neylon, Director of Visual and Performing Arts at Mount Vernon.

To qualify for the SupportMusic Merit Award, The Mount Vernon School answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with School officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

 “The second largest industry in the state of Georgia is the music and film industry, so it felt natural to call our program Mount Vernon Studios. Our students are not just performing music, they are writing, recording, and producing it with state of the art technical equipment,” said Upper School Music Teacher and Grammy Award Winner, Vann Thornton. 

The School has reimagined its music program three years ago to provide more real world experiences and opportunities for feedback from industry professionals. A recent example was The Mighty Mustangs, Mount Vernon’s rock band, participating at the Mic Check Invitational April 13-15, a Music and Entertainment Industry educational experience presented by the Music Industry Department of Troy University’s John M. Long School of Music.

The event included clinics and master classes with experts in music performance and production on each instrument in more of a one-on-one experience. There was also a performance by Chris Vrenna, drummer of Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins producer. Maggie Sims, class of 2023, was also a featured performer, one of eight chosen to perform out of 20 and one of only three high school students picked (the rest are college students). Mount Vernon’s Music and Film program was recently featured in an episode of the Made in MV podcast which is produced by students and available on Spotify.

“I never thought I would have an EP out while I was in high school,” said Maggie. “I have learned so much about all facets or music production, from writing music and lyrics to vocal work. Having a grammy-award winning teacher has been a true inspiration.”

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also to attend college as well. Everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism. 

About The NAMM Foundation
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,300 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. For more information about The NAMM Foundation, please visit