Next Generation of Music Educators Go to Capitol Hill

Next Generation of Music Educators Go to Capitol Hill

Three 2017 Collegiate Advocacy Summit Alumni Share Their Experiences


Capitol Hill
Photo: Ashlee Wilcox Photography / Documentary Associates LLC

Jenae Maley, University of Central Missouri

What happens when you set 119 passionate, young future music educators loose on Capitol Hill for a day? They band together to advocate for a common goal: quality music education in every school across the nation. I had the privilege of being one of the 119 NAfME Collegiates to attend the Collegiate Advocacy Summit and Hill Day 2017, and this is my experience.

The Collegiate Advocacy Summit consists of like-minded pre-service music educators from all over the nation collaborating, brainstorming, and sharing personal experiences about NAfME’s role in the life of a future music educator. I was extremely lucky to bond with a group of nine individuals from seven different states ranging from New York to Wisconsin to Kansas. Their fierce passion for music education and eagerness to share ideas on how to improve their own states and chapters had us rapidly discussing everything NAfME while walking the streets of D.C. The Collegiate Advocacy Summit created a platform to network with the best and brightest collegiate NAfME (cNAfME) members.

As a group, we attended seminars designed to prepare us to advocate for the future of music education. We met advocacy legends like Nicole Worzel from Rhode Island, who helped show us the ropes on how to talk to congressional representatives and senators on the issues in education we were most passionate about. It was a gold mine of new ideas, and I was excitedly calling my NAfME chapter members back home in Missouri every night, bursting with new suggestions.

Photo courtesy JJ Norman, NAfME Professional Development Manager


When it came time to join our state music education association (MEA) delegation on Capitol Hill, I felt ready to take on the world! Sitting in meetings with congressional staffers, we discussed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), funding, grants, and a well-rounded education. As a Collegiate, I shared my personal story about how I was called to be a music educator.

After two meetings, my state NAfME President looked over at me and said: “You’ve got the next one, right Jenae?” I led the next two meetings, presenting the congressional staffers with our legislative asks and offering our positions on issues like school vouchers and competitive grant writing. It was an unbelievable opportunity!

music in our schools
Radio Disney artist Erin Bowman and Radio Disney’s Candice with University of Central Missouri cNAfME members during the 2017 Give a Note Music In Our Schools Tour.


On the last night of the Collegiate Advocacy Summit, I had the honor of receiving the Collegiate Award of Excellence in Advocacy for my chapter’s amazing efforts in the Give a Note Foundation Chapter Challenge. Through a social media campaign targeting our members, faculty, families, and community, we raised the most money amongst all other Collegiate NAfME chapters across the nation for music programs in underserved schools. As a result, my chapter hosted a community celebration concert featuring the University of Central Missouri (UCM) drumline partnered with local high school drumlines, a guest Radio Disney artist, and a collaboration song between our chapter members and the audience. Although it took a lot of hard work to host such a large event, we had a blast! I was so proud of their efforts and thrilled to accept the award on their behalf!

To any Collegiate NAfME members interested in attending Hill Day in 2018, I would highly recommend you pursue this opportunity. The energy of the Collegiates is infectious, and you will leave with even more passion for music education than that with which you came.

You CAN make a difference in your state’s music programs. You CAN change the future of a child, but only if you choose to advocate for your passion.

“When music can bring a nation to its feet, it’s worth advocating for.”

Jenae Maley
Vocal and Instrumental Music Education
cNAfME Missouri VP of Membership
cNAfME UCM Chapter President



Naomi Ziegler, University of Memphis

For the longest time, I did not see the importance in staying educated in the latest government policies, bills, and budgets. I always thought it was a waste and that it brought nothing but arguments. All of these opinions have been changed thanks to the NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit.

I am a recent graduate from the University of Memphis, and recently served as the Collegiate NAfME (cNAfME) chapter president. For several years, the cNAfME advisor would encourage me to register to attend the advocacy summit. I had heard from an advocacy summit alum from our MEA conference, but remained skeptical. After my final year at the University of Memphis, I finally decided I would give it a chance and am so glad I chose to.

Tennessee has a wide variety of school populations. In Memphis alone, there are suburban, inner-city, and rural school districts within thirty minutes from each other. This area is rich in musical culture where nearly every school has a music program of some sort. I was blind to the fact that many other states struggle to maintain programs within their schools. The summit allowed me to discuss music programs in schools from other states and made me aware of the different struggles that are occurring across the nation. 

capitol hill
Photo: Ashlee Wilcox Photography / Documentary Associates LLC


The meetings for Tennessee were successful. We were able to meet with staff from both of our U.S. Senators’ offices, staff from two of the House Representatives, and the congressman from the district in which I teach now. During our first meeting, we discovered that the staff member we were meeting with had been a former teacher and is a musician. He shared his appreciation for music, and seemed genuinely interested in our requests we were making. The congressman we met with immediately came in and began speaking about a local musician, Isaac Hayes. It was a great opportunity to be able to sit with him and discuss some of the musical aspects that make Memphis great. He mentioned the school in which I student-taught as well. I am very thankful for the opportunity to be able to sit with my district representative and discuss music. 

Not only was I able to speak on my passion for music education, but I also gained a few hours of professional development. The collegiate summit was educational and allowed us to meet with a couple music education super stars. I felt encouraged and excited for the meetings on Capitol Hill the following day, as well as music education in general. Overall, the summit was a great opportunity to meet people from across the nation, network with other music educators in my home state as well as others, and become educated on the newest happenings in government that could affect our everyday lives.”

new teacher

Naomi Ziegler
cNAfME Chapter President
MSS Drum Major
RESSOM Student Ambassador



Riley Elizabeth Pate, California State University, Los Angeles

Courtesy CMEA Magazine

Keeping music education in our schools has been important to me since I was able to first pick up an instrument. Now, 15 years later, it has become a passion and calling for me as I finish my Bachelor’s in Music Education at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).

In early June, I was fortunate enough to receive a sponsorship to attend the National Association for Music Education’s Collegiate Advocacy Summit 2017, which took place later that month from June 27-July 1. When I started packing a day before take-off, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited, grateful, and being a California girl, was also extremely nervous at heading across the country on my own. I figured it would be similar to other conferences I had attended where we simply talked about the various ways music programs have benefited students across the country, while also pitching some of those experiences to Congress along the way.

Though that was a part of the story, I could not have been more wrong about the experience I would have in Washington, D.C. I quickly met, and befriended, some of the nicest people in my field with whom I felt completely comfortable exploring our nation’s capital. After these first adventures, we visited the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) headquarters office to brainstorm and learn about ways in which we could advocate in our towns, states, and nation as a whole—and how to get actual results from it. At this meeting, I met my advocacy idol, Nicole Worzel, who explained in great detail about Grassroots Advocacy, and how to be a better voice for our students. As the Advocacy Chair for Rhode Island Music Education Association (RIMEA), she was highly knowledgeable about the topic of advocacy, and her strength and skill shone through as she discussed the needs of music programs and students everywhere. Though there were numerous other speakers that day, and we had productive sessions with representatives from other collegiate regions, much of Worzel’s advice now forms the basis of my own goals and spirit as the Advocacy representative for California Music Educators Association (MEA) Collegiate.

national anthem
Photo: Ashlee Wilcox Photography / Documentary Associates LLC


I am still trying to fully comprehend the excitement I felt that Thursday, which we called Capitol Hill Day. Along with 118 other fellow collegiate colleagues, as well as each state’s MEA leadership, we visited our respective individual district representatives on Capitol Hill to talk to them about the importance of maintaining music in our schools. The legislative assistants with whom we spoke were some of the nicest and most receptive people I have ever met, regardless of their political views. Most had been in music programs throughout their own schooling, and all supported our reasons for fully funding the appropriate measures of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Some wanted to support our endeavors, but simply did not know much about the act, and this was where we lent our expertise, by giving them all the facts they needed to know. Though it was an incredibly long day, it proved to be an enormous success, and has forever changed my life.

Ever since that day I took the chance on music in elementary school, I have been fighting to keep the arts a focus in our school system. Nine years ago, I stood with my Dad and a small group of friends outside a Riverside Unified School District board meeting to protest plans to cut, or at the least, completely change the music programs in my home district. Every student deserves a quality education filled with opportunities to thrive, and giving them that right to learn music, be involved in something bigger than themselves, build teamwork and leadership skills, celebrate triumphs and deal with defeats, are all goals that can be attained by involvement with the arts. Students need a creative outlet, and it is so easy to forget that and cancel art programs at the first sign of budgeting issues, due to the contemporary focus on success in other core subject areas. It is imperative that we do not let music and art fade away or become the pawn in attaining a balanced budget. My musical family and I are still fighting this battle today, and we even took that fight to Congress itself, just to show them our continuing level of commitment.

Photo: Ashlee Wilcox Photography / Documentary Associates LLC


I have not met my students yet, and I have no idea of where I will be teaching when I get a full-time position somewhere, but I am nonetheless sure of one thing. I will love each and every single one of those future students, and I will never stop fighting for their right to have access to quality music programs. That is a promise I make to the world right now, and one which I will keep until the very end.

This Fall 2017 semester, I will be completing my recital to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree, and will then continue on to obtain my Master’s Degree in Education with a Specialization in US Education in a Global Context and a California Teaching Credential. My intent is to one day soon be at the helm of a high school instrumental program, and instill in my students the same love of the arts I have right now. My Master’s will also aid me in my continuing fight to advocate for such programs, and those future students.

Advocacy has become a second-calling for me, and though I am completing my final year as the Collegiate President for the NAfME chapter at CSULA, I would love to continue my advocacy work with CMEA, even after the end of my collegiate studies. In August, I intend to plan clinician events for our CSULA chapter, as well as a California Hill Day to reach out to our state representatives on this issue. I will also be launching a fundraiser campaign to help more CMEA Collegiate members get sponsorships to attend the National Collegiate Advocacy Summit and Hill Day in 2018. This event has changed my life in the best way possible, and I want to be able to share that advocacy experience with my peers.

Washington D.C.
Photo: Ashlee Wilcox Photography / Documentary Associates LLC


For anyone looking to get involved with music education advocacy, I urge them to please stay as informed and knowledgeable as possible about their state and national level funding measures and propositions. If something is worded oddly or does not make sense, research the proposition and get as much information as you can. Attend community or school concerts in your local area, even if you do not have a personal connection with one of the performers. Students feel so fulfilled and validated when they have an audience, and their families generally feed off their positive energy and work harder themselves to make sure these school programs stay available to them. Finally, reach out to your local, state, and federal leaders. Write straightforward letters about why you feel music education is important and should stay in schools, and why appropriate funding is imperative for its future. Simple resources like sheet music and instruments, are just two of the many things which cost a great deal of money, and we could really use any and all support to make sure students have what they need to function in these programs.

Thank you for reading about my journey so far, and my experiences at Hill Day 2017. Though my career is just beginning, I will continue to tirelessly work in every way I can to help ensure music education stays in our schools and remains strong the entire length of my time in this profession, and beyond. Please get involved, and have fun doing so! Feel free to email me with any questions you might have at, and thank you again.


Riley Elizabeth Pate
Advocacy Officer at CMEA Collegiate


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