Press Release: Musical Stars Answer the Question Why Music? for MIOSM

Steven Van Zandt, Mark O’Connor, Marty Stuart, and Clay Aiken Answer the Question “Why Music?” for Music In Our Schools Month®

Musical Stars Explain the Importance of Music Education in Award-Winning Radio PSA Series Produced by MENC: The National Association for Music Education

RESTON, VA (February 25, 2009) — MENC: The National Association for Music Education released the newest edition in its series of radio public service announcements featuring top pop, country, and classical musicians for March, Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®). The series, called Why Music?, features musical stars talking about the value and importance of music education.

Artists joining the MIOSM lineup for the first time in 2009 are Steven Van Zandt, Mark O’Connor, Marty Stuart, and Clay Aiken. Returning artists include The King’s Singers, The 5 Browns, Trisha Yearwood, Al Jarreau, Kathy Mattea, Bonnie Rideout, Edgar Meyer, Gloria Estefan, Boys II Men, Joshua Bell, Vanessa Williams, Patty Loveless, Janis Ian, Faith Hill, Chely Wright, Tim McGraw, Roger McGuinn, Bonnie Raitt, Billy Taylor, and many others. (A complete list of artists participating in the series since 1997 can be viewed at

Steven Van Zandt is a multi-platinum artist, producer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. A founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, he is also an original cast member of HBO’s The Sopranos. Since 2002, Van Zandt has hosted “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” an internationally syndicated radio show. In addition to his musical career, Van Zandt has been twice honored by the United Nations for his human rights achievements and received the International Documentary Association Award for his film The Making of Sun City. He founded The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, a non-profit organization, in 2007. “Little Steven’s Rock and Roll High School” is the Foundation’s national middle and high school curriculum initiative, which will be made available free to every middle and high school in the U.S. within two years.

A product of America’s rich aural folk tradition as well as classical and flamenco music, violinist and composer Mark O’Connor has melded his influences into a vision of an entirely American school of string playing. His first recording for the Sony Classical record label, Appalachia Waltz, was a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. The works O’Connor composed for the disc gained him worldwide recognition as a leading proponent of a new American musical idiom. The follow-up release, Appalachian Journey, received a Grammy Award. His first full-length orchestral score, Fiddle Concerto, has become the most-performed modern violin concerto. O’Connor is the founder of the internationally recognized Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp and Strings Conference as well as the new Mark O’Connor String Camp to be held in New York City in 2009. This May sees the release of The O’Connor Method, the first-ever violin method that reflects an “American School” of study, co-authored with string educator Bob Phillips (Alfred Publishing’s Highland/Etling division).

A local prodigy by age twelve, Marty Stuart’s mandolin playing led to a road gig with the Sullivan Family Singers. Stuart has since scored six top-ten hits, one platinum and five gold albums, and four Grammy Awards. Throughout his career in the country music industry, he has collaborated with other top country artists such as Travis Tritt and Johnny Cash. Marty Stuart has also served as president of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Directors.

Born in Raleigh, NC, Clay Aiken sang his way up from school choirs to the American Idol stage. Since then, Aiken has released five well-received albums, and has appeared in the role of Sir Robin in the Broadway musical Monty Python’s Spamalot. A current ambassador for UNICEF, Aiken has pursued his mission of bringing primary education to all children. Throughout his career, Aiken has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for children in need.

Each PSA in the Why Music? series features an artist talking about the importance of music education for today’s youth or a personal experience he or she had with music in school. The PSAs are available for radio stations to download at

The PSAs are part of MENC’s unceasing efforts to keep music programs strong in America’s schools. “MENC’s mission is to advance music education by encouraging the study and making of music by everyone,” said John J. Mahlmann, MENC’s executive director. “We believe that the celebrity messages significantly raise the public’s awareness of the positive effect music education has on kids.” Previous Why Music? MIOSM editions have generated as many as 206 million verified gross impressions over the month of March.

“Music is intrinsically valuable on its own, of course,” continued Mahlmann, “but it doesn’t hurt, at a time when school budgets are so tight, to spread the word about the other ways learning music can benefit students. For instance, recent Harris surveys found that music education is associated with higher education and higher income, as well as personal fulfillment, and that school principals believe music programs help motivate students to stay in school.”

MENC releases Why Music? twice a year — in March to coincide with Music In Our Schools Month, and in September as children head “Back to School.” Why Music? has been the recipient of several prestigious communications awards, including the League of American Communications Professionals 2002 Magellan Awards Publicity Campaign Competition Bronze Award for Community Relations and The Communicator Awards 2002 Audio Competition Crystal Award of Excellence. In addition, MENC was awarded Honorable Mention in the PR News 2002 Platinum PR Awards for PSA Campaign, and the 2001 Bronze Anvil Award for Best Radio Public Service Announcement by the Public Relations Society of America. The series was awarded the Mercury Awards 2003 Honors for the Campaign/Public Service Announcements category and the APEX 2003 Award of Excellence in the Public Relations and Information Video and Electronics Publications Category.

For more information on this series, contact Elizabeth Lasko at MENC, 703-860-4000, or by e-mail at MENC’s Web site is

MENC: The National Association for Music Education, the world’s largest arts education organization, marked its centennial in 2007 as the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. More than 142,000 members and supporters include educators representing all levels of teaching from preschool to graduate school. Since 1907, MENC has worked to ensure that every student has access to a well-balanced, comprehensive, and high-quality program of music instruction taught by qualified teachers. MENC’s activities and resources have been largely responsible for the establishment of music education as a profession, for the promotion and guidance of music study as an integral part of the school curriculum, and for the development of the National Standards for Arts Education. MENC is located at the National Center for Music Education in Reston, VA.