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Music Education Advocacy in DC - "What I Learned" By Michael Santander

NAMM 2023 Music Advocacy DC Fly-In Phil Dunitz Michael Santander

I recently had the opportunity to take part in the NAMM Music Education Advocacy DC Fly-In representing both Instrumental Music Center and Arizona. This was an amazing experience I would strongly encourage any NAMM member to take advantage of. Here is a brief overview of what we did and some key takeaways.

Instrumental Music Center is a member company of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). NAMM supports and facilitates a wide variety of events in the music industry, representing over 15,000 member companies. Most notably, it puts on the annual NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA which is the world's largest gathering of the Music Products Industry. Educators, Retailers, Manufacturers, Artists, Vendors, Students and more gather yearly to see the newest products and take part in professional development sessions in a variety of areas.

NAMM 2023 Music Advocacy DC Fly-In

In addition to this incredible tradeshow, NAMM also supports and advocates for music education in many areas through The NAMM Foundation. One way that all of these different members can be involved in this area is through the annual NAMM Music Education Advocacy D.C. Fly-In. This year myself and Phil Dunitz (IMC Educational Services Director) took part in this incredible opportunity by meeting with our Arizona representatives in congress to discuss how they can best support music education in our community.

NAMM 2023 Music Advocacy DC Fly-In Michael Santander

We spent Monday volunteering at the University of Washington DC discussing career opportunities within the music industry with college and high school students. Tuesday was a full day of briefing. We heard from experts from across the industry about how the arts can be supported by legislation.

Michael Santander Music Advocacy NAMM DC Fly-In

Then, we discussed the details of what we would be asking our state representatives to support. NAMM members requested that Congress continue its strong support for the intent of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), and expand access to well-rounded subjects that include music and the arts by:

- Fully funding ESSA’s Title IV, Part A (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) to its authorized level of $1.65 billion (an increase from FY 2023 appropriation of $1.38 billion) to ensure that the well-rounded education goals of ESSA are realized for every child

- Supporting ESSA’s Title I funding for our nation’s most vulnerable children and clarify that Title 1 funds can be used to expand music and arts learning opportunities

- Supporting ESSA’s Title II funding for professional development that promotes the effectiveness of teachers

- Fully funding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which provides competitive grants in every state and congressional district for our national arts and culture organizations.

Michel Santander Phil Dunitz Juan Ciscomani Music Advocacy

Over the next two days Phil and I met with the offices of Arizona’s elected officials: Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema, Juan Ciscomani, and Raul Grijalva. We also supported meetings with delegates from Washington and Alabama. At each meeting we shared stories about why this current legislation and funding is so necessary, and asked for their votes to continue supporting these critical programs.

In total, there were 84 delegates participating in over 140 meetings with members of congress over these two days. This is an incredible wave of awareness on these issues. NAMM puts a ton of work into making this event run smoothly and ensuring that it makes a powerful impact.

I learned a few things from this week:

1. This work is important. Our representatives are voted into office by us. They represent us. If we're not letting them know what is important to us, then how can they be expected to support us? Taking the time to learn about the issues and opportunities that are important to us and connecting with our representatives to share our opinion and views is a powerful thing. This is an important element of how our government works, and it's an honor to be able to be part of it. If we're not reminding our representatives of what is important to us, then it runs the very real risk of being cut or removed.

2. YOU can do this. I wasn't originally sure if this was something I was "allowed" to do, or if I was qualified enough to do it. Let me be the first to tell you: YOU CAN DO THIS. If you live in a zip code in the United States and you think that music education is important, and you are a member of NAMM (individually or through your employer), then you can participate in this. You don't have to be a CEO or a business owner or a rockstar. You are an American who cares about their community. NAMM will guide you through the process. Don't worry. You can, and should, be part of this advocacy event.

3. The networking alone is worth it. NAMM offers many year round opportunities to connect with people all throughout the industry. However, oftentimes we are gathering because of our specific roles and positions in the industry. This gathering felt unique in the sense that we were all there for the same reason and in the same role: a NAMM delegate representing our community. It creates an atmosphere where you can have conversations with individuals throughout the entire industry that would be difficult to have in other settings. It's an incredible opportunity to grow your personal and professional network and expand your knowledge base.

NAMM 2023 Music Advocacy DC Fly-In

The reason I have found a career and a home in the music industry is largely owed to the musical opportunities that I was given when I was younger. Advocating for supporting the arts in our schools and communities is not just creating more music makers, but it's teaching people to be creative, empathetic, and diligent. It's an absolute pleasure and honor to be able to share this with our government, and to play a small role in ensuring that future generations are afforded even more access to arts education. I'll most definitely be doing this again and I hope to see you there, too.

- Michael Santander


Michael Santander has worked at Instrumental Music Center since 2011 and serves as the General Manager of the business.


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