Music Education Advocates Rally at U.S. Department of Education; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Florence Henderson Lend Support

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan accepted more than 120,000 signatures on MENC’s Petition for Equal Access to Music Education on June 18 at MENC’s Rally for Music Education in Washington, D.C. In accepting the petitions Duncan said that he looked forward to working with MENC and music educators in “broadening the curriculum to include music and the arts rather than narrowing it.”

That is a key assertion in MENC’s petition, which states “all Americans should work to enhance and support music education in our nation’s schools.”

The petition asks that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act “not only identify music as a core subject, but also recognize music education as a mandatory component of every public education curriculum in the United States.”

Duncan said he believes music can help raise test scores, improve graduation rates and increase self-esteem. At the rally, held at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building, Duncan said he has been conducting a “listening tour” with teachers, students and parents throughout the United States during which he said he heard firsthand of the importance of music education.

The rally, a centerpiece of the new MENC event Music Education Week in Washington (continuing through June 23), kicked off a day of music education advocacy on Capitol Hill. (Later in the day, MENC members met with their senators and representatives, sharing key messages about the importance of music education.)

The rousing event, attended by music teachers and students from throughout the United States and a number of special guests, included performances of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and other songs by the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar measures MENC’s stack of petitions for Secretary Duncan.

Basketball legend Kareem Adbul-Jabbar and actress/singer Florence Henderson both signed the petition at the rally. Abdul-Jabbar voiced his support of music education during remarks in which he credited his father, a jazz musician who attended The Juilliard School on a GI scholarship, with being his first music teacher.

Henderson told the crowd of teachers, students and MENC leadership,”I personally want to say how important music education is for all children.” Henderson also read the formal petition to Duncan and the audience.

Other guests included award-winning cartoonist Tom Batiuk, who presented Duncan with a framed cartoon he drew especially for the secretary, and Mrs. America Maureen MacDonald from North Carolina.

Visit the MENC News Stand for continuing updates on Music Education Week in Washington.

Listen to Secretary Duncan’s speech

Rally for Music Education Press Release

Photos by Becky Spray

 —Roz Fehr, June 19, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education