The 11th Annual “NAMM DC Advocacy Fly-in” Delegation with a view to the US Capitol
Jordan Kitt’s Music, the DC area’s oldest piano retailer, again advocates for music education on Capitol Hill.
In May 2015, Chris Syllaba, President & CEO of Jordan Kitt’s Music, again joined members of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) in advocating for the importance of music education in our public schools. This year, a record 76 members from the music retailing and manufacturing industry joined forces to meet with Members of Congress and their legislative staff to encourage the reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act), including identifying “music” as a core academic subject. There was significantly more optimism among Members of Congress and their staff this year now that the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee has voted unanimously to approve the bipartisan re-draft of the ESEA re-authorization bill titled the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”
As with last year, the nearly week-long effort started with a “day of service” on Monday, May 18. This day was dedicated to Fly-in delegates spending time making music with fifth grade students at Bancroft Elementary School in Washington DC. Former NY Yankee and Latin GRAMMY-nominated musician Bernie Williams and opera singer Carla Dirlikov kicked off the effort with a brief musical performance. Nathan Diamond, Director of Arts for DC Public Schools, made remarks along with Joe Lamond, NAMM President, and Mary Luehrsen, NAMM Director of Public Affairs. Following this, delegates assisted the kids in three different music making experiences: A guitar class was facilitated by GRAMMY-nominated music educator Glen McCarthy, a ukulele class was led by award-winning folk duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer and a drum circle was headed up by John Fitzgerald of Remo Inc.
On Tuesday, delegates participated in a day of advocacy training starting with comments by Larry Morton, NAMM Chairman, and an address by Darrell Ayres, Vice President of Education, at the John F. Kennedy Center. One of the day’s presentations was made by Peter Grunwald, founder and President, Grunwald Associates, introducing the results of a recent and exhaustive study indicating the overwhelming support of school music programs by two key constituencies – parents and teachers. Among numerous findings in this study titled “Striking a Chord”, 77% of teachers and 64% of parents say access to music education is “extremely important” or “very important”. Also, 87% of teachers and 79% of parents “strongly believe music education has a positive impact on overall academic performance.”
This was followed by further training throughout the afternoon and evening at the Capitol Hill offices of of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, NAMM’s tireless advocacy partner and consultancy. The sessions there were kicked off by Leo Coco, Senior Policy Advisor at Nelson Mullins. Also joining the group again as in past years was Richard Riley, former US Secretary of Education. He provided the delegates with invaluable insights and opened doors for the group on Capitol Hill. These training sessions were key in preparing the NAMM Fly-in delegation for a full day of congressional meetings the following day.
On Wednesday the real work commenced early in the morning on Capitol Hill. NAMM delegates organized and attended over 130 meetings with Senators, Representatives and their staff, representing a majority of the States of the Union. The message from the over 9,200 NAMM member companies representing the views of almost 430,000 employees and constituents was that music and arts education in American schools is of the utmost importance.
In the evening, a dinner and reception followed a successful day of music education advocacy at Nelson Mullins. The guest of honor was Congressman John Lewis (GA) who shared a powerful message about music’s role during times of change. “Without music the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings” said the Congressman. NAMM President Joe Lamond presented Congressman Lewis with a SupportMusic Award. The Fly-in culminated with a celebration of music overlooking the Capitol on the 9th floor terrace of Nelson Mullins with Bernie Williams and his band. Here Mr. Williams was surprised with SupportMusic Award as well.
Thursday morning concluded the week’s efforts with a SupportMusic Coalition call. Hundreds of individuals from around the country listened in on the call as the delegation summarized the week’s activities and proclaimed another overall successful advocacy effort. For more information, visit http://www.namm.org