“If there hadn’t been a music program in my public schools, I would not be where I am today.”—Chad Smith
This March 19 and 20, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers will join former New York Yankee and Latin Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist Bernie Williams, plus leaders of the music instrument and products industry, in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on the importance of comprehensive music education in our nation’s schools. The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) organizes the annual Advocacy “Fly-In” on behalf of school music education programs in public schools, to promote the benefits that playing music can have for children and teens, and to assure that federal education policy and funding advance access to music learning for all children.
“I am a perfect example of someone who’s been musically educated exclusively throughout grade school, middle school, and high school by the public school system,” says Smith, who music-education advocacy efforts extend to the Percussion Marketing Council’s Percussion In the Schools program, the Boys Club of Milwaukee, the Collective School of Music, Harlem NYC Jazz, Fender Music Foundation, Little Kids Rock, and the Music Drives Us foundation. “If there hadn’t been a music program in my public schools, I would not be where I am today. Every kid—and I mean everyone—needs a chance to learn and grow with music.”
According to NAMM, pressure on funding for school music programs continues as many districts struggle with budgets and regulations that force schools to narrow their scholastic offerings at the expense of important core academic subjects, music and arts education.
The issue of music education in schools is also close to the heart of longtime music-education advocate and gifted jazz guitarist Williams, who attended a previous NAMM Advocacy Fly-In and has taken up the cause as a national advocate for music education. “As a student,” Williams recalls, “music was available to me in my public school in Puerto Rico. It fostered discipline in me and the ability to perform under pressure. A lot of what music taught me led to my success in other areas, including professional baseball. Music has a profound effect on kids, and education must include music and the arts.”
According to a Harris Poll, school principals report higher graduation rates in schools with robust music and art programs than do those without programs (90.2% as compared to 72.9%). In addition, those that rate their programs as “excellent” or “very good” have an even higher graduation rate (90.9%). Schools that have music programs have significantly higher attendance rates than do those without programs (93.3% as compared to 84.9%).
Nearly thirty NAMM members, executive committee and industry representatives, will join Smith, Williams, and NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond for this year’s DC Fly-In, March 18-20. “NAMM members envision a world in which every child has a deep desire to learn music and a recognized right to be taught; and in which every adult is a passionate champion and defender of that right,” says Lamond. “Our work in Washington seeks to further that aim.”
NAMM’s annual Advocacy Fly-In gives members the opportunity to advocate to their members of Congress for policy and funding to support music and arts education. This advocacy effort includes one day of preparation at the Kennedy Center and another day of personal meetings with representatives and other influencers. Sessions are preceded by an issues briefing and training, after which NAMM members hit the halls of the U.S. Capitol and Congressional office buildings to lobby their representatives about the importance of music education and needed changes to assure access for music learning.
During the trip, NAMM members are also trained on developing state-level advocacy efforts for music and arts education that they can take back to their communities in time for school budget season.
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is a not-for-profit association whose mission is to strengthen the $16.3 billion music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music. NAMM’s activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of approximately 8,500 member companies located in more than ninety countries. For more information about NAMM or the proven benefits of making music, interested parties can visit namm.org, call 800-767-NAMM (6266), or follow the organization at facebook.com, twitter.com, or YouTube.com.
Photo by Laura Glass.