By Zachary Keita, NAfME Advocacy and Public Policy Communications Manager

On June 23, music educators gathered on Capitol Hill for the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) Hill Day for the first time since 2019. This annual event provides an opportunity for advocates for the music teaching profession to rally on Capitol Hill, highlighting their cause on the frontstage of federal policymaking, and developing relationships with key decision-makers in the legislative process.

NAfME’s return to in-person advocacy in Washington, DC, was marked by a group photo of attendees gathered on the steps of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial.

NAfME Hill Day 2023 group photo of advocates in front of the U.S Capitol

Photo: © Ashlee Wilcox Photography, LLC

200+ attendees representing nearly every state, the European Music Education Association, and the Music Education Policy Roundtable held more than 160 meetings with members of Congress and staff members. In addition to state music education association (MEA) leaders, this year NAfME collegiate members from across the country participated in Hill Day advocacy, sharing their stories and highlighting the impact of music education on their lives and in their communities.

NAfME Hill Day advocacy was a joint effort with representatives from six Music Education Policy Roundtable organizations:

  • American String Teachers Association
  • Music and the Brain
  • Country Music Awards Foundation
  • Save the Music Foundation
  • Hawaii Youth Symphony
  • Servant Leadership Association for Music

Music educators and advocates spoke with members of Congress and staff about the importance of music education and the impact it has had on their lives and the lives of their students. Through these discussions, advocates highlighted key programs and legislation that would increase access to and further the impact of music education throughout the United States.

Sonja Williams and Johnthan Hamiel Hill Day meeting 2023

Photo: © Ashlee Wilcox Photography, LLC

Key programs and legislation included:

  1. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Funding Fiscal Year 2024
    • Title I, Part A (Supporting Access to Music Education for the Most Disadvantaged Students): $20.5 billion
    • Title II, Part A (Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teacher, Principals, or Other School Leaders): $3 billion
    • Title IV, Part A (Supporting Access to Music Education as Part of a Well-Rounded Education): $1.65 billion
  2. Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education Act—Further specifies the eligibility of Title I funds to be used for music and arts programs.
  3. Educators for America Act—Seeks to reform and rebuild the educator pipeline to increase the number of diverse and highly qualified education personnel.
  4. Arts Education for All Act—Expands arts education and programming in early child care and the juvenile justice system. Requires research and data collection on the use of arts in elementary and secondary Schools.

View the full list of programs and legislation being advocated for by NAfME.

Hill Day Sing

To wrap up our time on Capitol Hill, we celebrated in typical NAfME fashion, with a sing-along! MEA leaders gathered on the steps of the Capitol Reflecting Pool to perform several songs, serenading Capitol Hill and providing a ray of sunshine on an otherwise overcast afternoon in Washington, DC! The sing-along was a powerful reminder of music’s ability to bring people together.

Sonja Williams Lenora Helm Hammonds and Scott Sheehan at NAfME Hill Day 2023 singalong

Photo: © Ashlee Wilcox Photography, LLC

Collegiates Attend Marine Corps Band Parade

Following Hill Day, collegiate members attended an evening parade by the U.S. Marine Corps, culminating in an advocacy and leadership training summit that coincided with the NAfME National Leadership Assembly, during which leaders in the field shared proven practices for local, state, and national level advocacy efforts.

NAfME Collegiate trip to Marine Corps Barracks performance 2023 black and white selfie with Susan Smith and collegiate members

NAfME Collegiate members with NAfME Collegiate Advisory Chair Susan L. Smith

Evening Celebration

Following Hill Day 2023, NAfME hosted an evening celebration to highlight the outstanding work in advancing music education advocacy by MEAs throughout the year. During the evening’s events, New Mexico MEA (NMMEA) was honored as this year’s NAfME Excellence in Advocacy Award winner. Over the last year, NMMEA focused their advocacy efforts on building relationships among its membership to develop a grassroots advocacy network.

four individuals on stage with U.S. and NAfME flags and NAfME logo step and repeat backdrop. One individual holds framed folded U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol building.

Left to right: NAfME President Scott R. Sheehan; NMMEA President Ty Frederick; NMMEA Executive Director Neil Swapp; and Jazzmone Sutton, NAfME State Advocacy Engagement Manager. Photo © Ashlee Wilcox Photography, LLC

Alabama, North Carolina, and Missouri MEAs were awarded Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation’s State Music Education Association Advocacy Grant Award, which supports the work of NAfME state affiliates by augmenting existing advocacy initiatives and creating new advocacy opportunities. This year’s grant awardees put forth compelling proposals to bolster their advocacy work, including establishing a framework to provide mentoring and support throughout the careers of educators from diverse and underrepresented populations, creating a suite of advocacy training videos for educators, and expanding a Professional Learning Committee focused on connecting and supporting rural educators.

Social Media Presence

NAfME hosted a virtual advocacy campaign for members and other music education advocates to add their voices in support of our Hill Day and for programs and legislation impacting music education. Our virtual campaign received ample support from members across the country and amplified the message advocates shared on Capitol Hill. Additionally, NAfME orchestrated a massive social media presence, reaching viewers using the hashtag #NAfMEHillDay on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can revisit Hill Day experiences by following NAfME on each of these accounts.

Thank You, NAfME Members!

Finally, we thank you for your devotion toward making our return to Capitol Hill a resounding success. Without you, we are not able to develop lasting and meaningful relationships on the Hill and effectively advocate for music education. As we work with Congress for the remainder of the year, we know your hard work and energy on Hill Day has opened the doors as we continue our mission of music education for all.

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

July 26, 2023


  • Advocacy
  • Federal Advocacy & Public Policy


July 26, 2023. © National Association for Music Education (

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