How I Became an Advocate for Music Education, and How You Can too!

June 6, 2018, 11:09 AM · We’ve all seen news clips of excited, passionate people gathering on the steps of a State Capitol building to fight for something they believe in. Turns out, I am one of those people! I truly believe that quality music education is something every student should have access to, regardless of their zip code. When I learned about #StandUp4Music advocacy day at my State Capitol, Sacramento, I saw a chance to get involved that might just help make a difference in the lives of California’s music students.

Through my employer, Yamaha Corporation, I am by default a member of NAMM – National Association of Music Merchants. This trade organization represents over 100,000 employees of music products manufacturers and retail stores in the State of California alone. NAMM is also the umbrella organization for the NAMM Foundation which advocates at federal and state levels on behalf of music education, as well as providing resources, grant assistance and a myriad of support tools for music educators and students.

This year's #StandUp4Music day took place on May 17th at the California State Capitol, and it was the second time I attended. The event brought together over 30 state-chapter music and arts advocates. NAMM’s "industry contingent" of about 12 individuals joined 20+ teachers and administrative leaders from CMEA – California Music Educators Association, which is the California affiliate of NAfME - National Association for Music Education. Our group task was to meet with our individual senators and assembly people and ask them to support (read: fund) a number of bills and spending measures that will benefit music education, teachers and students, an ultimately our communities, in the state of California.

at the California State Capitol
A performance by a high school orchestra from Santa Clara on the California State Capitol steps on StandUP4Music day.

As a newcomer to this process, it was an eye-opening experience, even for a second year in a row, to see how bills get funded and who is involved. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Lesson One: It’s actually really easy to do

The first thing we did was contact our home-district Senators and Assembly people, and request an appointment on the day of the advocacy event. That may seem intimidating, but, I simply called each office and asked for an appointment. It never occurred to me that because it is the office of an elected official, there is a requirement that all constituents receive a response. Making the appointment was just that easy. Within a few days, and I had heard back from all of my elected representatives and I had 6 appointments.

Lesson Two: Showing up is really important

With dozens of appointments booked, the #StandUP4Music contingency was on its way to flooding the Capitol building to push music education funding to top-of-mind! Music education advocacy organizations have already done the work to read through the bills, and they have articulated how to push support (or argue against in some cases) benefitting music education. What I learned was that just by making those six phone calls to my representatives, and showing up at those members’ offices – all those calls and the face-to-face time drives the focus and raises the priority needed to push the bills, and keep them moving. If you don’t make a little noise, then someone else’s priorities may be louder, and you might not be heard.

Lesson Three: They want to talk to you

Your elected officials actually want to know what you care about as a voter. It was an eye-opening experience to realize that they welcome every single constituent, and they will give you your 15 minutes.

meeting with assembly member
Meeting on StandUp4Music day: Yamaha District Manager Doug Steinmetz, California Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, Heather Mansell and Justin Emord, LA-based professional guitar player and Music Education advocate.

In many cases, the legislative aides are just as important to meet because they write, research and track the various bills and topics. It was really valuable to talk to these staffers who work behind-the-scenes because they are the people crafting language and including relevant details for each bill. The now well-informed aide that you met with will be the person who actually writes that line-item you want funded.

Lesson Four: Regular people make things happen

What really resonated with me about #StandUp4Music was that regular people, both on the legislative side and on the advocacy side, are the people who makes things happen. You don’t have to be a policy expert to tell a meaningful story to your elected official about why music education is important to you and your community. Reiterating that music education equips students with the foundational abilities to learn, achieve in other academic subjects, and develop the capacities, skills and knowledge essential for lifelong success is the foundation of any "ask" you may have to your elected official.

At the end of the day, it was a tiring and a thrilling experience, but I didn’t go to Sacramento to burn calories running around the hallways. I went to the Capitol to talk to the people who write the legislation, and who vote to shape our communities. These are my representatives, and it is up to me to make my values known to them. I went because as a resident, and as a human being, I really truly believe that when people have access to, and receive a quality music education, it improves our society and makes our world a better place. I am just a regular person, and it does make a difference to say something, and to advocate for something you believe in. You have to be loud, and show up!

After our efforts in the 2017 StandUp4Music day, we received notice on the June 14th budget release day that our advocacy efforts were successful, and that the funding for bill that was passed would not be delayed. HOORAY! We hope for similar results this year.

You can do it too! Here’s how you can get involved in advocating for music education in your region: NAMM Foundation – Support Music Coalition

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This is an updated version of an original blog post from the Yamaha Music USA blog.


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Replies

June 7, 2018 at 03:25 PM · To Heather Mansell ~ BRAVO!!!!!

Thank you for becoming involved in a vitally important issue in 'our' Home State of California, which I must shed a bit of personal/professional history on and from Chicago ~

Growing up in Los Angeles & an LA suburb, I witnessed my NYC born father-Juilliard trained musician stand very Tall for the plight of Music in the public schools. The Ralph Matesky name became Legend not only in So. California due to Dad's intoxicating energy, brilliance composing musical 'gems' for elementary school orchestra's, and teaching whomever he 'smelled' wanting to learn a string instrument, but for his vision - changing the 'complexion' of Music and its education within the State of California, so dramatically, the California State Supervisor of Music, from her Sacramento Desk, Helen Hefferman, reached out to the 'Music Man', Ralph Matesky, inviting him (Dad) to Sacramento to help her implement what would be regarded as the finest Music Education programme in California's public schools ever outlined & overseen! Dad signed on to supervise all Music Education in the California public schools in the latter part of the 1940's & '50's, creating a to-be model of teaching music which brought great acclaim to the entire State of California, including its political population, parents/pupils & teachers recognising the long range importance of learning in general due to music training/ discipline & overall abilities to focus & concentrate on school curriculum's from children well ensconced in a school music orchestra, band or choral programme!

My father's String Teaching texts became a 'Bible', if you will, for any & all Orchestra/band and Choral Teachers/ Director's in the California public schools which would continue on until a drastic reduction of all healthy music in the schools programme's in the 1980's, as evidenced by *ASTA members/ colleagues, through to the present ~ The State of Texas actually adopted Dad's 'Ralph Matesky Teaching Music in the Schools' texts as their official Manual & Guide for all public school string teachers to follow in teaching all students from elementary thru Hi School, how to learn-play string instruments, plus other wind & brass instruments w/the Ralph Matesky 'slant' on teaching music in the public school setting ~

Asked to head USC's preparatory string department in the '50's, Dad, (never seeking 'fame'), in his utter conviction & quest to illumine the lives of 'ordinary' children/young pre-college & college music student's became famous as a 'pied piper' of the Music Education 'movement' which spread from Sea to shining Sea (California to New York & North to South) bonding all together! Unanimously elected to the Presidency of National ASTA (*American String Teachers Association) in 1969, then starting his term in 1970 - 1972, my father's vision & dream to incorporate Music into the public schools was then emulated by the finest string teachers in America & parts further, taking superb High School & College trained-by-Ralph Matesky-orchestras on extended foreign concert tours in Wales, England, all Scandinavia, continental Europe, Mexico & Japan - Dad's last 'stop' as JASTA's most praised American String Educator made an Honourary Life Member by JASTA just 3 & 1/2 years prior to my father's untimely passing ~

I could write a Book on the Ralph Matesky Story, but shall defer doing so here, for Dad always said something which became one of his defining Mantra's ~ "Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole!"

Nearly Four decades following his passing in 1979, it is my privilege to meet, encounter & sometimes work alongside many of those who knew Dad or studied & played in one of his numerous orchestras (i.e., Conductor's Leonard Slatkin & Michael Tilson Thomas), or were involved in ASTA, now headquartered in Fairfax, VA, just minutes away from Washington, D. C. ~

To access more on Dad or ASTA, go to asta@astaweb.com or visit the ASCAP & BMI websites to read about Ralph Matesky! And if a school orchestra music Teacher/Director, visit Alfred Music Publishing on their website. They are headquartered in Van Nuys, CA, & now (with help from my father's extraordinary compositional/ arrangement skills for orchestra's) a globally known company & Leader in the field of Music Education. I would certainly be remiss in not paying homage to Alfred's Founder & premier exceptional guide/mentor of wondrous string & brass/woodwind music educator's in America, Morty Mannes & his partner/wife, Iris, 1000% on board from Day I in their Port Washington, New York, to California journey & eventual arrival into the global World of Music Education!

Thank You, Heather Mansell, for Showing Up where it matters & changes Lives, plus the extra Gift of writing about your '#StandUP4MusicDay' in 2017 & here on Violinist.com! You're truly spreading the Gospel of Music Education for all Youth and their Good which is a High Calling in Life ~

Sending you gratitude and respect, 'Keep on keeping on' !!!!!

Elisabeth Matesky ~

(Proud musician Daughter of the late Ralph & Betty Matesky)

June 7, 2018 at 09:57 PM · Thank you so much, Elizabeth! I'm really glad to hear your father's story. It's so true that the work to keep QUALITY music education alive and well in our public schools starts with individual people, working together to be heard! Bravo to your father; what an amazing legacy. And also great to hear about his work with ASTA. These organizations are vital to strengthening music education and uniting music educators not only in the United States but GLOBALLY. Truth be told, I'm a transplant to California (and the United States) from Canada. My father was also a pioneer in Drama for the Ontario (provincial) curriculum, and I watched him do many of the things you also described your father do. It's our job as the next generation to KEEP the Arts alive and well. We have to SHOW UP!! Thanks again!

June 8, 2018 at 09:06 AM · ~to 12.145.32.10 (alias Heather M.??!)

Thank you for your kind words of response! I nearly married someone in Toronto, born in Ottawa, whom I met flying back to my home in London from JFK Int'l Airport in NYC, and visited a few lovely places in Ontario province ~

Your father obviously made a great impact in the world of Theatre! My goodness ~ Witness the extraordinary pool and outpouring of theatrical talent's from that part of Canada!! Mike Myers comes to mind straightaway, plus other Canadian actors!!!

If you go to my Biography here on Violinist.com, it may become apparent I've been 'recruiting' all in the core classical music concert world to The Cause!!! Please feel welcome to keep in touch if, indeed, you are Heather 'M'!!

You can email me c/o my Artist Representative in Chicago at: goldenattorney@hotmail.com & on Subject say: to Elisabeth Matesky re: How I Became an Advocate for Music Education ... Heather 'M'/forward to E. Matesky

That ought to do it!!!! Delighted to read your article and your kind response, I hope to hear from you on what's happening in Sacramento!! (I lived there after losing my Dad, on an NEA Grant, to help out the Sacramento Symphony.) I made some great friend's, one of whom was honoured in February 2018, at the State Capitol by the State Congress for his exemplary work & support of young musicians. You might wish to meet my longtime friend, Ron Ortiz!! Email me thru Dale Golden, and I'll put you in touch with Ron Ortiz ~ Okay!!!

Yours musically from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky*

*UTube: Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Classes -Khachaturian,

JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky(Russian version/Library of Congress

Master Performers) This is my Heifetz Film, shown 'round the

World! Jascha Heifetz is acclaimed as The Greatest Violinist

who ever Lived ~ It was a great privilege being 1 of the 7 of

Mr. Heifetz's original artist pupils in his 1st Int'l Violin Master

Class at USC, subsequently filmed by NYC Producer, Nathan

Kroll w/ full film crew from NYC, filming us at USC in LA ~

*www.linkedin.com/Profile, Elisabeth Matesky (panoramic view of my int'l concert career )

June 11, 2018 at 10:47 AM · I believe every child in elementary through high school should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at school, and to start at any time. This was not an opportunity I had. My junior high and high school had only auditioned ensembles, and nothing for beginners. One thing I've been impressed by, since moving to California, is how many string players in this state started learning through school music programs, some as early as 1st grade and some as late as high school. I've seen people who started in school music programs playing in professional orchestras, and a large number continuing to play as serious amateurs.

I live in Sacramento these days, so I'm definitely keeping an eye on the calendar for next year's advocacy day and opportunities to get involved in advance of it. (Also, I'm a lawyer with experience in policy analysis and even a little lobbying experience for other grassroots causes. I'd love to put some of that experience to use for music education.)

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