NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — CMA Fest is filled with top-notch entertainment including some of the biggest names in country music, but what pulls at the heartstrings is the CMA Foundation it supports.

For more than a decade, the CMA Foundation has funneled millions of dollars to music teachers and programs.

“CMA Fest is unique. Find another festival that has this model that allows us to give half of the proceeds back to our communities,” said Tiffany Kerns, Executive Director of CMA Foundation.

For 11 years, the CMA Foundation has invested in quality music education throughout the country.

“That first year it was us giving a million dollars of instruments to put instruments into the public schools in Nashville,” said Sarah Trahern, CEO of Country Music Association. “Over time that evolved to a repair shop, to supporting teachers with professional development and opportunities.”

It’s a vision made possible by the people who join the fanfare and by those who grace the state.

“Find another genre where artists show up for free giving their time and their talent. I think it makes us positioned to do really great things,” said Kerns.

As work progressed, the Foundation discovered overwhelming challenges facing music education and teachers, like the director of bands at Antioch High School.

“Oftentimes, we look at things that are data-driven, and arts sometimes is getting left out,” said Frank Zimmerer, Director of Bands at Antioch High School.

The Foundation changed its tune and has since honored 120 music teachers and given $700,000 to support their excellence.

“It’s really important that yes, we’re focused on the classroom. But further, that we’re always focused on our teachers,” said Kerns. “If we’re going to reach students, we have got to make sure we’re reaching our teachers.”

As a recipient of $5,000, Zimmerer has plans for his program.

“Oftentimes, our students may not have the best quality equipment, but because of the CMA and because of this award, now we can purchase those new accessories for our instruments, or that music, or travel off-campus,” he said.

As you sing along at CMA Fest, do it with a smile knowing your good times help fund a musical experience for children all over the country.

CMA Fest is back! News 2 crews are giving you a front row seat to all the action as country artists and fans flood Music City for the first time in two years. Follow our continuing coverage right here on