More than 100 music industry leaders, notable artists and arts education activists descended on the nation’s capital this week to advocate for all school-aged children to have access to quality, comprehensive school music education programs. As part of the annual National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Advocacy Fly-In, held May 20-23, the delegation met with Members of Congress and other policy stakeholders to reinforce the importance of music as part of a well-rounded education and to urge Congress to fund the Title IV program at its authorized level of $1.65 billion in fiscal year 2020 to ensure that the goals of the Every Student Succeeds Act are realized for every child.
The week of advocacy work began on Monday, May 20 with a Day of Service at Charles Hart Middle School in Congress Heights. Nearly 60 NAMM Members provided one-on-one instruction on drums, guitars and ukuleles to elementary students as well as needed maintenance and repair to the school’s musical instruments. In the evening, the delegation delved into the opportunities to advance music education at a special panel session featuring arts leaders, school administrators, and the Save the Music Foundation.
On Tuesday, the delegates prepared for their time on Capitol Hill by participating in advocacy training, during which the group was apprised of current issues facing public school music programs and briefed on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the current political climate from a variety of policy and arts leaders. Michael Yaffe, Associate Dean of the Yale School of Music, presented on issues on equity in music education as detailed in the Yale School of Music Declaration on Equity in Music for Students. The report examines the role of music making in the lives of students in America’s cities, both large and small.
That evening, the group joined The NAMM Foundation in honoring Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Committee on Education and Labor, with the SupportMusic Champion Award. The award was presented by former Secretary of Education Richard Riley and NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond to the Chairman, in recognition of the Chairman’s unwavering commitment to music and the arts and for his role as one of the primary authors and champion of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The Act reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time in 13 years and replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. Additionally, in 2017, he worked to secure passage of legislation to reform and update the nation’s career and technical education system, as well as the juvenile justice system in 2018, both of which were signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Upon presentation of the award, the Chairman shared, “I want to thank the National Association of Music Merchants for promoting music and arts education in public schools. We know that access to music and art programs can be a powerful tool for improving student engagement, attendance, and outcomes. We must continue the important work of ensuring that all students have access to high-quality arts and music programs that enrich their development and lead to better educational outcomes.”
On Wednesday, the delegation met with Members of Congress and other elected officials to advocate for school-level music programs across the nation and to discuss the multitude of benefits music education espouses such as increased brain function, focus and language development. Delegates also shared a report from the Kennedy Center’s Turnaround Arts program and The NAMM Foundation. The Foundation has provided over $500,000 to expand music education in 70 schools through the Turnaround Arts program. Researchers explored music education instruction, specialists and curriculum at Turnaround Arts schools, finding that as schools invested in music education, the quality of and access to music education increased from 27.8% to 75%, and the average number of minutes of music instruction per week increased from 17 to 33, nearing the national average of 40 minutes per week.
Later Wednesday evening, the delegation, music and arts stakeholders and others gathered to celebrate former NY Yankee World Series Champion, NAMM Foundation Board Member, music education champion, and accomplished musician Bernie Williams. Williams has served as a delegate on the fly-in for the past 10 years, citing his own passion for music as a catalyst to share the joys of music making for all children. When Williams accepted the award, he reflected on the past years of advocacy work on ESSA, and what it means to him: “Twenty, thirty, forty years from now, there’s going to be a child in school that thinks to themselves, ‘somebody thought that it was important for me to learn music.’ I had an interview earlier today where I was asked about my career and I said that ‘There’s not even a comparison, no comparison - there's no amount of home runs in the world that can compare with having the opportunity to impact the education of our kids for years to come.’”
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry. NAMM is comprised of approximately 10,300 members located in 104 countries and regions. NAMM events and members fund The NAMM Foundation's efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music, and advance active participation in music making across the lifespan.