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Meeting legislators
Left to right: Joe Lamond, President and CEO, NAMM; David Jewell, Yamaha; Jonathan Gilbert, Legislative Director for Congressman Mike Levin; Congressman Mike Levin, 49th District, California

(June 30, 2019)

“It’s sad that music has been cut from our public schools” is a sentiment that, unfortunately, is heard all too often these days. But I’m happy to report that the winds are changing.

In my role as partnerships and alliances manager for Yamaha Corporation of America, I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to partner with The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and other organizations at two annual events aimed at improving state and federal funding for music education. The first of these focuses on state legislators in Sacramento, California, while the second provides an opportunity to meet members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to appeal for maximum funding for music education under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The goal at this year’s Sacramento event was to urge the state of California to meet or exceed the national funding average ($12,252 per pupil) in order to provide high-quality standards-based music programs — along with visual and performing arts programs — taught by credentialed teachers. The day of advocacy included delegate training and musical performances by eight student ensembles, along with meetings with the governor’s staff and state lawmakers. One of the highlights for me was an incredible performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by the Consumnes Oaks High School’s vocal ensemble — one of the best renditions I have ever heard.

A week and a half later, I flew to Washington, D.C., for the 2019 NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-In. There, I joined delegations from 39 other states — a total unmatched in the Fly-In’s history — to amplify the team’s collective voice. The size of the audience was also unprecedented, with the 40 combined state delegations holding a record number of 230 meetings with U.S. Representatives and Senators and their legislative staffs. The California delegation alone visited 19 such offices, and I’m happy to report that all the officials and staff we met with received our team warmly and were receptive to our message, which was this: Increasing ESSA grants to the maximum allowable level gives schools more resources and flexibility to build and improve their music curricula and programs.

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