Music in Our Schools Month and Joe Sugar Day
Music In our Schools Month® (MIOSM®) was designed to raise awareness of the importance of music education for all children, and to remind citizens that school is where all children should have access to music. During MIOSM, music educators and students throughout the United States and overseas are demonstrating the powerful role a quality music program plays in the lives of young people.
The roots of MIOSM can be traced to New York State where the first MIOSM was celebrated on March 14, 1973. Governor Nelson Rockefeller recognized MIOSM in proclamation in 1973, and recognition of MIOSM continues from the Governor’s office today. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo once again proclaimed March 2017 Music in our Schools Month. In his proclamation, Governor Cuomo noted that the New York State School Music Association (NYSMMA) is collaborating with NAfME to “reflect the importance of music education in our schools and highlight the cultural significance of music.”
This year, March 6th was Joe Sugar Day, NYSSMA’s yearly visit to legislators to advocate for music education. The advocacy day named after Joe Sugar, the long-time NYSSMA music education advocate, has inspired music advocacy across the country, in no small part, through the creation of Music in our Schools Month.
Many state music education associations (MEA) have hosted advocacy days where music educators from across their state met with their lawmakers in advancing the mission of music for and by all students. With no rest for the weary, here is what some of our state MEAs have already accomplished this year:
Iowa Alliance for Arts Education Advocacy Day—January 25th
The Iowa Alliance for Arts Education hosted its 4th annual advocacy day with positive outcomes where legislators learned about who they were and what they wished to accomplish. Seventeen new legislators were targeted this year as arts advocates made their case for arts education in a cost-cutting environment. Elementary school choirs and school choirs showcased the arts with amazing performances.
Wisconsin Music Educators Association Drive-in Day—February 8th
As part of WMEA’s Drive-in Day, twenty music educators, administrators, school board members, parents, and business owners met with 14 state senators and 15 state representatives during their drive-in day. The main legislative ask was to create coordination between federal and state law to better exemplify the national shift to a “well-rounded” education. Such coordination would clear any ambiguity for school districts applying for Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants.
Oregon Music Educators Association’s Day at the Capitol—February 20th
Sixteen OMEA Members demonstrated their commitment to Oregon students by lobbying the legislature for fully funded education in coalition with other educators and citizens from around the state. They spoke in coalition with over 400 other leaders from around the state and asked our legislators to support better funding for schools and other vital services in Oregon. They will hold yet another Day at the Capitol on March 25th.
Minnesota Drive-in Advocacy Day—February 28th
Minnesota Citizens for the Arts’s Drive-in advocacy day focused on funding for the State Arts Board and the Regional Arts Council. Specifically, advocates asked to protect the 47 percent dedication of the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund to the State Arts Board and Regional Arts Centers, as well as maintain the general funding to the State Arts Board and Regional Arts Centers. The day proved to be a huge success as the advocacy day had a record turnout with over 1,000 advocates who met with their representatives and senators in teams of 19 to 100.
Nebraska Music Educators Association Joins Statehood Day—March 1st
March 1st was Nebraska’s 150th birthday, and NMEA collaborated with the NE150 Celebration with a “Sing Across Nebraska” and performances in the Capitol Rotunda. Students from across the state in Nebraska schools sang “Happy Birthday, dear Nebraska” at the same time at 2pm. Additionally, different ensembles from the across the state performed throughout the day at the Capitol. The celebration will continue on March 8th with the Ashland-Greenwood Junior High School Concert Band at the Capitol Rotunda.
We’ll be sure to continue updating music education advocates of the success stories of MIOSM as state MEAs continue their work this month.
Tennessee Hill Day- March 7th
Congratulations to TMEA for holding its first ever Hill Day for Music Education Advocacy. The event featured meetings with legislators and performances from several school groups. Plans are already in the works to make Hill Day a yearly event that is here to stay.
Meetings with legislators focused on introducing lawmakers to TMEA as an advocacy group as well as seeking the re-establishment of the Director of Arts Education position at the state’s Department of Education. With the introduction of the new music standards in 2018, there is a need for a state leader who can coordinate resources and professional development. TMEA also emphasized its priorities in supporting policies that protect instructional time, ensure access to music instruction, and stipulate the need for qualified licensed teachers.
Kansas Music Education Advocacy Day- March 9th
KMEA had a successful Music Day at the Capitol in Topeka. Several KMEA representatives spent the day advocating for music education with members of the Kansas State Legislature. Those attending included President Gretchen Bixler, Vice President Martha Gabel, President-Elect Gae Phillips, and NAfME Collegiate President Fern Stevermer.
Michigan Music Education Advocacy Day- March 14th
The Michigan Music Education Association (MMEA), in collaboration with the Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA), celebrated Music Education Advocacy Day at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan. Representatives from each of the associations, along with parents & business leaders, met with legislators throughout the day to discuss the importance of music education in Michigan schools.
Participants of advocacy day urged lawmakers to support two K-5 music education bills, SB 0198 and HB 4349. If enacted, these ESSA-aligned bills would authorize best practice guidelines for K-5 general music contact time and teaching environment. It would also ensure the preservation and continuous development of high quality music education experiences for all Michigan students.
A noon performance featuring three ensembles from K-12 Michigan schools highlighted the day.
Indiana Arts Education Advocacy Day-March 16th
The Indiana Arts Education Network hosted its first ever Advocacy Day. Legislators spoke to the group of arts advocates as well as taking on individual meetings with advocacy participants. The policy agenda centered around Indiana’s new ESSA accountability plan and was highlighted by noon music performances that were attended by state lawmakers.
Massachusetts Drive-in Day-March 17th
The Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) hosted its first ever Drive-in Day dressed in green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The general message to lawmakers was to thank them for their support of the music and arts. Participants targeted lawmakers who preside over the Higher Education and Education Committees in the Massachusetts Legislature. Legislative asks included a higher education administration requirement in the arts. Additionally, MMEA lobbied to update the Massachusetts Arts Standards which haven’t been improved upon since 1999.
Pennsylvania Music Education Advocacy Day-March 20th
PMEA hosted yet another highly successful Music Education Advocacy Day. Music educators reached all legislative offices, and PA State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski presented a House Citation to PMEA recognizing March as Music in our Schools Month.
PMEA’s legislative agenda includes an increase the Basic Education Subsidy, including Well-rounded education requirements in the review and approval of local education agency plans for Title I and IV, and reinstatement of the funded Pennsylvania Department of Education staff
position that supervises the development of curriculum and standards in four content areas: Music, Visual Art, Theatre and Dance.
As part of MIOSM, live music was performed in the rotunda of the Capitol every day of the month.
Thank you to all of the music advocates across the country for making March such a successful Music In Our Schools Month, and let’s continue this advocacy momentum for the rest of the year!
For those states that haven’t contacted us with your Hill Day experiences, please do so. We want to promote your great work!
Tooshar Swain, Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement. Last updated March 30, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)