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.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 #
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.
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.
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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