Music Teachers and Students Rally on Capitol Hill for Music Education

Friday, June 25: a sunny morning in Washington, DC. Perfect for sightseeing in the nation’s capital. However, music educators, music students, and other music education supporters from all over the United States gathered in a park near the U.S. Senate with a more serious intent: to demonstrate the power of music education for all.

As Capitol Hill visitors and staffers stopped to listen, the Rally for Music Education in Upper Senate Park featured an audience of music students and performances by the United States Navy Ceremonial Band, a women’s choral group from Clark College in Vancouver, WA, and the local teen pop group Power Pirate, a finalist in last year’s SchoolJam USA competition.

Mrs. Washington DC, Regina Robinson Raines, and Mrs. Maryland, Raquel Riley Thomas, appeared to voice support for school-based music education programs. Members of MENC’s National Executive Board also participated.

MENC President Scott C. Shuler, arts consultant for the Connecticut State Department of Education, said, “It’s a delightful beginning to a delightful day, when we begin with music from our nation’s students. Every day should start with music, because for today’s students to succeed tomorrow, they need a comprehensive education that includes music taught by exemplary music educators.

“We at MENC stand firmly behind that idea. Some of the leaders of our 130,000 teacher, student, and community members are in town this week to work for the day when all students have this comprehensive education.”

Music educators and students said they were thrilled to attend the event, the kick-off of MENC’s annual Music Education Week.

“In a time when music education programs are seeing cuts, this is such a great opportunity for us to show what music programs can do,” said Jeremy Sterk, band director of Tri-County High School in Wolcott, IN. “Plus, coming to Washington is amazing for our kids. A lot of them had never been out of the state before.”

To raise money for the trip, Sterk and his students found local sponsors, held a dinner, and created a cookbook to sell in the community.

More than 100 choir and band students from Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, traveled to DC to participate in Music Education Week in Washington, DC and the surrounding metropolian area. April Duvic directs the women’s choir that performed. She said, “This is our first-ever East Coast trip and we are so honored to be here.”

She said music groups from the community college have traveled as far as China to perform “but this is something special.”

Two other Clark music educators, band director Richard Inouye and vocal jazz teacher Janet Reiter, also are directing their students in DC this week. Student groups participating in Music Education Week perform at Washington monuments and landmarks, a chance to allow the public to see music education programs in action.

“We decided last fall that we would come and it has been well worth it,” Duvic said.

Jeremy Sterk’s band traveled from Wolcott, Indiana to Washington,DC to partcipate in Music Education Week.

MENC Executive Director Michael A. Butera

MENC President Scott C. Shuler

Two of the members of Power Pirate: Emily Pakulski (left, on guitar) and Annika Monari.

The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band performs for the assembly.

Roz Fehr, June 25, 2010 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education

Photos by Becky Spray