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Don’t Fret, but Do Pay Attention

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Editorial
• Created: March 23, 2017

While even the most strident supporters of funding for music education would likely agree that the subject takes a back­ seat to far more immediately pressing national and international concerns, it’s nonetheless one of many initiatives that potentially faces threats of various scope and severity under our nation’s new presidential administration.

In mid-­February, news was made when the White House budget office announced that it had included the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting amongst a group of programs it was attempting – or at least seriously considering – to eliminate.

As reported in The New York Times (yes, not exactly one of President Trump’s favorite media outlets, but let’s grant them the assumption that in this case, at least, their accuracy is not to be questioned) in late February, Broadway producer Daryl Roth said in response, “The concept of ending federal funding to the N.E.A. and to the many nonprofit arts organizations, artists, writers, cultural institutions, museums and all recipients that would be affected is of course of grave concern to me… Arts education in the schools, theater groups, music and dance programs help revitalize local communities, both spiritually and economically, across the country.”

My guess is that, whatever the political leanings, most MMR readers would agree with Roth that funding of the arts – specifically music programs and music education efforts – are beneficial on personal, societal, and (no need to dance around the subject) financial (to us, anyway) levels.

It’s not just educators who may potentially feel the heat, either. Also in February, at the Grammy Awards presentation, Neil Portnoy, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, made the following appeal:

“The Recording Academy, together with America’s music makers, call on the president and Congress to help keep the music playing by updating music laws, protecting music education, and renewing America’s commitment to the arts.”

It’s too soon to throw down and get truly worried or nasty, as nothing concrete has happened yet, but I submit that it would be foolish to not at least be aware of the stated intents of those currently in power. Particularly after the historic passing of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) in 2015 – an important step that named music and arts as core subjects – the need to remain vigilant is, in fact, more important than ever. After significant forward progress, the temptation to sit back and assume “victory” should be tempered with an awareness of present realities and potentialities.

Once again: I’m not advocating for fear or anger or over­reaction – merely for awareness.

If you care about music education and the strength of music programs for all in an extremely volatile political and social landscape, then that’s all the more reason to join NAMM members at this year’s Music Education Advocacy D.C. Fly­In, taking place May 22­25. Having attended four previous gatherings, I can attest it is an inspiring and unique experience that provides an opportunity to truly participate in the American political process. If you’ve never been and if these causes are important to you, your family, your business, I hope you’ll consider joining the NAMM team.

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