The Country Music Association has endowed a $1 million gift to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Words & Music” program.

“Words & Music,” one of eight educational programs that the museum currently offers to area schools, is designed to assist language arts and music teachers with classroom instruction in the basics of writing song lyrics. The museum provides teachers with lesson plans, including a 10-song CD and accompanying lyric sheets licensed especially for this program, and pairs students with volunteer professional songwriters who add melody to their compositions. The 2008-09 school year marks the 30th anniversary of the “Words & Music” program.

The association will fund the “Words & Music” endowment with an annual donation of $200,000 over a five-year period (2008-2012).

“CMA has been a longtime supporter of the important work of the Hall of Fame and Museum,” Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, past president and chairman of CMA and current chair of CMA’s artist relations committee, said in a prepared statement. “But what appealed to our board about this donation was the idea that the funds would be focused on an initiative that is important to our artists and is the foundation of our industry – the art of songwriting and education about our intellectual property rights – protecting the future of our business.”

Over the past 10 years, CMA has contributed $3.7 million to the Hall of Fame and its various programs. The new endowment raises that figure to $4.7 million.

Each year, CMA donates half the net proceeds from CMA Music Festival to support music education in Metro Nashville Public Schools through a program known as “Keep the Music Playing.”

During the 2007-2008 school year more than 4,700 kindergarten through 12th-grade students at 51 Tennessee and Florida schools wrote songs that were put to music by 48 volunteer professional tunesmiths.

Every aspect of the art form is explored, but the business aspect of songwriting isn’t overlooked either. Part of the future curriculum will deal with “songlifting” and the impact that illegally downloading, burning and sharing songs off the Internet has on the songwriting community.