Last month, Dr. Jim Frankel of MusicFirst joined nearly 100 music industry leaders, notable artists and arts education activists to advocate for all school-aged children to have access to quality, comprehensive school music education programs. As part of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Advocacy Fly-In, held May 22-24, the delegation met with Members of Congress and other policy stakeholders to reinforce the importance of music as part of a well-rounded education.
The issue of music education takes on a special importance this year as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in 2015 by President Obama readies for state-level implementation in 2018, currently faces underfunding. The law specifies music as core part of a well-rounded education for all K-12 students.
“Being on Capitol Hill for the day, representing MusicFirst along with other music industry leaders, advocating for music education for every child in America was one of the most important things I have ever done. Meeting with elected officials and directly pleading the case for fully funding ESSA, especially funding for arts education programs including music education, was an amazing experience.”
The Advocacy week began on Monday, May 22 with a Day of Service at Jefferson Middle School Academy. Members from the group provided three hours of music education instruction on drum, ukulele and guitar for the middle school students. NAMM delegates also provided maintenance and repair to many of the school’s existing instruments. That evening, he joined The NAMM Foundation in awarding the SupportMusic Champion Award to Senator Robert Casey (PA). The award was presented in recognition of the Senator’s long history in music education advocacy and role as a champion of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
On Tuesday, Jim prepared for his efforts on Capitol Hill by participating in advocacy training at the Newseum, during which Jim and fellow music industry leaders were apprised of current issues facing public school music programs and briefed on ESSA and the current political climate, from a variety of policy and arts leaders, including representatives from the United States Department of Education, Americans for the Arts (AFTA), the National Governors Association (NGA), the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME), and the National School Board Association (NSBA), among others. The group also enjoyed a special lunchtime session on current policy trends presented by PBS News Hour contributor, New York Times columnist and Turnaround Arts artist, David Brooks. Dr. Frankel was also trained on developing state-level advocacy efforts for music and arts education to put into practice here in New York and around the country.
On Wednesday, Jim met with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Congressman Peter King, 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, as discussed in a new research study from Northwestern University. The Country Music Association, VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and former New York Yankees centerfielder and three-time World Series winner, music education champion and Turnaround Arts artist Bernie Williams joined the day of advocacy, sharing his own experience in music education and a desire to create a more musical world.
In addition to the advocacy work, Jim was part of a special Congressional reception, held on Wednesday, May 24 in the Mansfield Room at the U.S. Capitol that brought together arts advocates and policy makers.
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 member companies located in 103 countries. 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. For more information about NAMM, please visit www.namm.org, call 800.767.NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.