Making the Case for Music

May 05, 2020

As Published in Portland Business Journal, July 11, 2019.

On May 20, 2019, a small but passionate delegation convened in Washington, D.C. to advocate for music education. The annual “Music Advocacy Fly-In” is driven by NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants), the trade organization that oversees the musical instrument (MI) industry. Our delegation is a select group of 100 individuals who operate at every level in the MI world and represent over 500,000 MI employees. We are firmly aligned with one core belief: Music and the arts are an essential part of every student’s education.

Playing a musical instrument is virtually unmatched in whole-brain engagement, enhancing classroom learning for students at every cognitive level. The benefits of music education extend beyond the classroom as well. Music breaks down social barriers, builds confidence, aids mental health, bridges communities, and empowers individuals. It gives a voice to everyone and allows students the safe space for self expression that they struggle to find elsewhere. 

What happens during the Fly-In?

On Monday, the NAMM Day of Service, our delegation helped Charles Hart Middle School catalog instruments for repair and facilitated classes for ukulele, guitar, and percussion. The band director, Mr. Pierce, was so full of gratitude he was nearly in tears...and we only assisted for a few hours. It was a humbling reminder of why we do what we do.

Tuesday was training day. We got a crash course in the history of education funding, built our game plan for meetings with legislators, and practiced what we call “the ask.” This year, the ask is to fully fund the Title IV, Part A appropriation. The federal budget appropriated $1.65 billion for music and the arts, but it has never been fully funded. Our goal is to see the full $1.65 billion in funding. 

Wednesday was our day to meet with legislators. We were the only two delegates from Oregon, so our meetings were with the offices of Senators Merkely and Wyden, Congresswoman Bonamici, and Governor Brown. In advocacy work like this, you learn two things very quickly. The first is how accessible the offices of your elected officials truly are. The second is how important the staff is to that office. Ron Wyden is a person, but Senator Wyden is a team. When you meet with staffers, you may be speaking with the people who actually draft the bills proposed by legislators. Meetings with staffers can be incredibly productive.

How You Can Help

There are two things that you can do to help us. The first is to contact legislators and ask for their support to fully fund Title IV, Part A. $1.65 billion sounds like a lot of money, but that number shrinks quickly when shared between 50 states and thousands of school districts.

The second is to speak with your local school districts, principals, and teachers about the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) Award and the National Endowment for The Arts (NEA) grants. There are awards and funds to be had if districts simply apply for them.

In the coming months, we will be reaching out to and meeting with the Governor, Oregon legislators, and local school districts to advocate for all of the above. Please join us. We want a full list of Oregon success stories to take back to next year’s Fly-In!

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