Jordan Kitts and NAMM in Washington, D.C. – Day 3


Chris Syllaba with former Secretary of Education, Richard Riley (left) and Savoy Players on stilts (right).

Wednesday was the primary day for the 130 Congressional meetings on Capitol Hill that were scheduled by the NAMM Delegates. There was also a morning Congressional Briefing by Dr. Nina Kraus, PhD, Professor and Researcher at Northwestern University, for House and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Caucus Staff at the Capitol. She presented findings in her latest music/brain research investigating the neural encoding of speech and music and the brain’s ability to change as a result of experience and learning new things.

This was followed by a press conference on the benefits and importance of music and the arts in education led by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Co-chair, Congressional STEAM Caucus. Also commenting were Richard Riley, Joe Lamond, and Chad Smith. Present were Larry Morton, NAMM Chairman, Bernie Williams, NAMM Delegates and others on the House Triangle.

Additionally, NAMM Leadership held meetings throughout the day with key Members of Congress, including with Speaker of the House John Boehner.

The evening concluded at the offices of Nelson Mullins with their annual roof-top party attended by over 500 guests, including government officials, clients and Nelson Mullins leadership and associates.


Press Conference on the House Triangle. From L-R Larry Morton, NAMM Chairman; Kent Knappsberger; Bernie Williams; Dr. Nina Kraus; Actor Doc Shaw; Chad Smith; Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici; former Secretary of Education Richard Riley; and Joe Lamond, President and CEO, NAMM.

The Fly-In concluded on Thursday morning with an 11am SupportMusic Coalition conference call from the Nelson Mullins offices. Several hundred individuals joined in on the call lead by a panel of NAMM Delegates reviewing and commenting on this year’s Fly-In. The SupportMusic Coalition is a public service initiative and advocacy effort that now unites over 8,000 national, regional and international organizations comprised of parents and community leaders seeking to improve access and opportunity in music and arts learning.

This was an exciting series of events and experiences and is a vital part of keeping music in our schools. I, along with my fellow NAMM Delegates, look forward to participating again next year!


Jordan Kitts with NAMM in Washington, D.C. – Day 2

Tuesday morning began with a visit to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The visit was kicked off with briefings and welcome comments by Darrell Ayers, Vice President, Education, Kennedy Center; Joe Lamond, President and CEO, NAMM; Leo Coco, Senior Policy Advisor, Nelson Mullins; and Mary Luehrsen, Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, NAMM. Briefings on Education Reform, Common Core, and Arts Education were presented by Chris Minnich, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; Sandra Ruppert, Director, Arts Education Partnership; Richard Riley, Former United States Secretary of Education; and Maria Voles Ferguson, Executive Director, Center on Education Policy, George Washington University.

The morning continued with “Community Collaboration: Achieving Access and Equity in Arts Education”, presented by Darrell Ayers and Barbara Shepard, Director of National Partnerships, Kennedy Center. This session explored the Kennedy Center’s innovative Any Given Child initiative promoting arts education nationally. The visit was concluded with an overview and tour of the Kennedy Center, including the BlueNote at 75 exhibit, led by Kevin Struthers, Director of Jazz Programming, Kennedy Center.


The NAMM Advocacy Fly-In Delegation at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In the afternoon, NAMM Delegates participated in a working lunch at the Nelson Mullins offices. Peter Fenn, Partner, Fenn Communications Group, provided an overview of the current political climate, outlook for 2014 Congressional elections, and projections for the 2016 Presidential race. He and Leo Coco facilitated a Q&A while a select group of delegates attended a White House event celebrating the Turnaround Arts Initiative with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Both President Obama and the First lady were present for the event that included the Savoy Players performing.

The afternoon concluded with a training, message and logistics discussion for the Capitol Hill meetings the next day, facilitated by Leo Coco. It included individual State teams meeting in small groups to prepare for the Hill visits.

On Tuesday evening, NAMM Delegates headed for the Library of Congress for a reception and dinner honoring the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) Turnaround Arts Initiative. The talented Savoy Players from Savoy Elementary performed a wonderful dance and vocal routine that dazzled the audience. Kristen Madsen, GRAMMY Foundation, presented the first ever GRAMMY Music Educator Award to Kent Knappenberger, a music teacher from Upstate New York. He was the top nominee in the U.S. from over 32,000 submissions.


Mr. Syllaba Goes to Washington

This week, Chris Syllaba, President of Jordan Kitt’s Music, and over 60 fellow members of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) gathered in Washington DC from across the country to advocate for music education in the public schools. During this 10th anniversary of the annual NAMM Advocacy Fly-In, over 130 meetings were held with Members of Congress and their staff about the importance of music education.

NAMM Delegates started the week with a “day of service” event, making music with students at Savoy Elementary School in Anacostia, in SE Washington DC. Savoy is one of eight Turnaround Arts project schools, a program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). Delegates first met with Patrick Pope, principal, and Carol Foster, Chief Creative Officer, after which students part of the Savoy Players performed a dance routine for the group. They then participated in a drum circle, a guitar workshop, and a ukulele workshop, with assistance from NAMM members. Bernie Williams, former Yankee’s baseball player and Latin Grammy Nominated jazz musician and Chad Smith, drummer for the band Red Hot Chili Peppers, were both on hand to assist as well.


Chris Syllaba with Chad Smith

At the first “White House talent show” where the Savoy Players performed the next day, First lady Michelle Obama declared “with the help of this [Turnaround Arts] program and some school improvement grants, math and reading scores have gone up in these schools, attendance is up, enrollment is up, parent engagement is up, suspensions have plummeted, and two of the schools in our pilot improved so dramatically that they are no longer in ‘turnaround’ status. That’s amazing.”


Chris Syllaba with Bernie Williams

Monday evening, NAMM Delegates convened at the Capitol Hill offices of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough for a NAMM Foundation reception honoring Senator Tom Harkin with a SupportMusic Award celebrating 10 years of NAMM Fly-In’s.