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NAMM Fly-In Continues to Bring Music Education Support to D.C.

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • August 2018
• Created: August 6, 2018

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No matter who’s in the White House, one thing in Washington, D.C. stays the same every year: the NAMM Fly-In, a staple of advocating for all school-aged children to have access to “quality, comprehensive school music education programs.”

This year, 100 music industry leaders, notable artists and arts education activists visited Washington, D.C. between May 21 and 24 as part of the annual event advocating for music education with members of Congress and other policy stakeholders. The overall goal, NAMM says, is to bolster the idea that music is a vital part of a well-rounded music education

According to Mary Luehrsen, NAMM’s director of public affairs, the effects of the four-day event are increasingly ongoing.

“Overall, we see a metamorphosis to ‘deeper engagement’ in advocacy for music education, that messages of support for music education can and should be a deliberate part of music business strategy,” she said. “In addition to the dynamic and impactful meetings that NAMM members hold with members of Congress and their staff while at the Fly-In, the biggest change these last few years is that NAMM members ‘take the work home’ and are increasingly engaged as advocates for music education in their home states and communities.”

On Monday, May 21, the program began with a day of service at the Kennedy Center. Attendees helped with the D.C. Public School Music Festival by assisting students with the performance process and providing maintenance and repair to many of the student’s instruments. The festival, which spanned three days, featured close to 3,000 performers from 80 plus ensembles.

“All the kids who participated in this DCPS festival were from D.C. Public Schools. There were a total of 80 ensembles and 3,000 students that performed at the Kennedy Center,” Chris Syllaba, president and CEO of Jordan Kitt’s Music told the NAMM Foundation.

“Between our volunteer help, the Kennedy Center help, and the D.C. Public Schools organizing this entire thing, I think it was an incredible festival.”

Later that day, news contributor and author Charlie Sykes read an address on the current state of politics in America as the keynote of the event at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.

Tuesday, May 22 focused on advocacy training in preparation for the next day’s meetings on Capitol Hill.

Attendees learned about the issues that are currently threatening public school music programs. They were also provided more information on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The act, passed in 2015, affects kindergarten through grade 12 public school policy and stresses the value of a well-rounded education. The act also gives more decision- making to states and local districts.

During the day of preparation, the Arts Education Partnership, the Education Commission on the States, the Country Music Association, and Turnaround Arts all spoke to the group.

The morning meeting on Tuesday in particular focused on Music Matters, which offers a new compilation of research from the Arts Education Partnership, the Country Music Association, and the NAMM Foundation.

The document uses statistics to make a case for the benefits of music education with research that demonstrates increased focus, managing and navigating problems, and enhanced memory and vocabulary development in musicians versus non-musicians.

On Tuesday evening, the NAMM Foundation awarded the SupportMusic Champion Award to Representative Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon in in recognition of her “tireless work, and strong support of music education.” Namely, Bonamici played a major role in passing ESSA in 2015 and also founded the Congressional STEAM Caucus (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), a bipartisan group which recognizes the benefits of the arts and sciences in developing critical thinking skills for success in career and life.

“I grew up in a home full of music, and I understand and appreciate the power of music to teach, entertain, engage, and connect people of all ages and backgrounds,” Bonamici said of the award. “In Congress, I’m working to make sure all students get a well-rounded education that includes music.”

On Wednesday, May 23, the Fly-In held 180 meetings with elected officials to advocate for full funding of school-level music programs, as stipulated in ESSA.

They also discussed the academic and behavioral benefits of music education. Luehrsen broke down the process and intricacies of planning all 180 meetings.

“NAMM members who sign up for the Fly-In start requesting meetings about a month  before the Fly-In based on instructions and communications templates that NAMM staff provide; this information is also outlined in a webinar,” she said. “As the Fly-In date approaches, outreach with request for meeting confirmations accelerates.

Securing all the meetings is a true testament to NAMM member determination and effectiveness in reaching out and securing meetings. NAMM members are also reinforcing established relationships that have been developed over time with elected official and sometimes, reinforced with separate meetings back in their states or Congressional districts.”

“When we get to tell [members of Congress] about [Best Communities for Music Education] schools or districts that are in their communities at home…their eyes light up. They really become proud,” shared Tristann Rieck, owner of Brass Bell Music. “That is always a highlight during our visits.”

To wrap up the week in Washington, D.C., the delegation held a special Congressional reception on Thursday, May 24 in the Mansfield Room at the U.S. Capitol.

The reception congregated arts advocates and policymakers to emphasize the importance of continuing to advocate for all children to have access to music education.

“Overall, support by federal elected officials for music education as part of a well-rounded education – and available to all children – is strong,” Luehrsen noted. “Transferring a belief that music education is important to ‘DOING’ something about it is the essence of advocacy. With NAMM’s federal advocacy efforts, the inherent believe that music education is important has been transferred into designated funding for well-rounded education in the form of Title IV Part A: Student Success and Achievement Grants – with available funds to states of $1.1 billion.”

“It is a rewarding honor to be a part of the diverse group of NAMM members who come together with a common purpose, to ensure that our education system continues to provide the opportunity to learn music,” added Crystal Morris, president of Gator Cases. “In Washington, we are personally educating our country’s leaders on the power of music and helping to protect student’s rights to have music as part of their curriculum, today and into the future.”

The next NAMM Music Education Advocacy D.C. Fly-In is scheduled for May 20 to 23, 2019.

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