NBC is funding an initiative to create musical theater programs in U.S. schools in need of arts education.

The network says the effort to launch stand-alone musical theater programs will begin this month with a pilot group of 20 schools nationwide. NBC is joined on the Make a Musical project by iTheatrics, which adapts musicals for student productions and provides tools for teacher training.

NBC says the nonprofit iTheatrics' Junior Theater Project aims to begin another 180 programs this fall, building toward a 2014 goal of 1,000 school programs reaching 1 million students. Schools may apply for the fall program at the website makeamusical.org.