Musical Stars Go Back to School with MENC PSAs

With school starting around the nation, MENC launches the annual back-to-school campaign for its “Why Music?” radio public service announcements (PSAs). “Why Music?” is a series of PSAs produced twice annually by MENC to coincide with Music In Our Schools Month in March and with the traditional beginning of school in late August.

Jazz musicians Joshua Redman, Lew Soloff, and Anne Drummond recorded PSAs for the campaign while appearing at MENC’s Music Education Week in Washington in June. The August 2009 edition also includes new PSAs from guitarist/songwriter “Little Steven” Van Zandt, composer/violinist Mark O’Connor, and Martha Wash, the R&B, soul, house, and club/dance singer/songwriter.

Lew Soloff (left) and Anne Drummond (center) check out PSA scripts during rehearsals at Music Education Week in Washington. Josuha Redman (right) recorded a PSA minutes before performing at the Society for Jazz Education Showcase concert. Photos by Becky Spray.

The series features top country, pop, jazz, and classical artists talking about the value of music education. “Why Music?” is part of MENC’s continuing efforts to advance music education by encouraging the study and making of music by all. MENC members can help by urging radio stations to play the PSAs.

“I think music education is good for kids because it gives them the chance to learn diverse types of music,” said Martha Wash while recording the PSAs. “It gives them the discipline to work hard. You have to sing the correct notes for the song to sound great. You can’t be off, you can’t be sharp, you can’t be flat. You have to be right on the note. Then when you put all the parts together, it is wonderful!”

Martha Wash (Photo:

Wash said her mother inspired her. “I listened to my mother sing around the house, and I would sing along with her, and it went from there.” She added, “There was one person who helped me realize my dream of being a singer – my high school music teacher, Johnny Land. He saw the potential I had to go out and do great things, and it turned out he was right!

“My fondest memory of music in school was my choir class. My teacher made it possible for us to record four albums — that was highly unusual for a high school choir to record four albums. It was fun!” said Wash.

While recording PSAs at Music Education Week, Lew Soloff had some words of advice for aspiring musicians. As a student, he said, “I just loved music, and I found I had a natural aptitude for it – a combination of the desire to work at it plus some bit of talent. I’m an advocate who says that [musical success] is 95% hard work and 5% talent.”

Soloff agrees that music is “good for kids — it’s the most fun hobby anyone could have.”

Listen to and download the 2009 Back to School PSAs.
MENC’s “Why Music?” PSA Series

Elizabeth Lasko, August 21, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education