I recently had the honor to take part in the NAMM Fly-In on behalf of Yamaha Corporation of America for a fifth year, meeting with congressional members to discuss funding Title IV-A (which supports music and arts education in our public schools) as part of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). The bill passed with bipartisan support in 2016, requiring $1.65B to be fully funded.
The President’s first budget draft was released on May 23, and unfortunately, there were zero dollars allocated to this program – all the more reason for us to be on Capitol Hill the very next day to advocate for this to be funded. The 98 NAMM members that attended the 2017 Fly-In had almost 200 appointments, and the California contingent met with a total of 13 members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Yamaha and NAMM both believe that the joy of making music should be a precious element of daily life for everyone. We envision a world where every child has a deep desire to learn music and a recognized right to be taught, and in which every adult is a passionate champion and defender of this right. This belief is rooted in our corporate philosophy – and music advocacy has long been an important part of that philosophy.
Who hasn’t had music impact their life in one way or another? After repeatedly begging to be allowed to play drums in the school band, it was my fifth-grade band teacher, Mrs. Mandy, who finally said, “OK, David, grab some sticks. You’re now one of the drummers in the band.” Looking back, that was one of those big “Yes” moments in my life. All of us have had those times when a decision had a powerful effect on our lives, whether negatively, or as in my case, positively.
What I want for every child is that same right: to have the opportunity to play a musical instrument. That’s why I continue to advocate in Washington year after year.
1. It’s amazing how in our country every citizen has the right to speak with their elected officials. More importantly, as a public servant, their office is required to meet with you.
2. You are not the only one who is passionate about their issue. One of the main reasons I participate in the Fly-In each year is to provide research about the benefits of playing music and to share personal stories about how much music has impacted my life and the lives of people I know. It’s these personal and passionate stories that help keep our senators and representatives focused on the issue.
3. The 20- to 30-year-old legislative aides, assistants and directors are running our country. Well, kind of. Believe it or not, 80% of our meetings on the Hill were with these people and not the actual elected official. If they don’t want your message to get to their boss, it won’t. Be nice to these staffers since, to a large degree, they determine whether your viewpoint gets heard by your elected official.
4. Be on time and always come prepared. Give the folks you meet with constituent data, research and a simple and convincing “Ask.”
5. Let it be a conversation, not a one-way street. Make sure you engage in a dialogue, not a monologue. Listening can be even more important than talking!