Press Release: Stars Answer the Question Why Music in New PSAs

Stars from the Musical Spectrum Answer the Question “Why Music?” as Students Head Back to School

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

RESTON, VA (August 14, 2009) — MENC: The National Association for Music Education released the newest edition in its series of radio public service announcements featuring top musicians for “Back to School” 2009. The series, called Why Music?, features musical stars talking about the value and importance of music education.

New artists joining the lineup for Back to School 2009 are Joshua Redman, Martha Wash, Lew Soloff, Anne Drummond, Steven Van Zandt, and Mark O’Connor. Returning artists include Darius Rucker, Trisha Yearwood, Al Jarreau, Kathy Mattea, Gloria Estefan, Vanessa Williams, Patty Loveless, Janis Ian, Faith Hill, Chely Wright, Tim McGraw, Bonnie Raitt, and others. (A complete list of artists participating in the series since 1997 can be viewed at

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.” MENC releases Why Music? twice a year — in March to coincide with Music In Our Schools Month, and in August as children head “Back to School.”

“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, a recent Harris survey found that music education is associated with higher education and higher income, as well as personal fulfillment. If you want to be a CEO, college president, or even a rock star, study music!”

Why Music? has received 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.

Read on for information about the new participants in this series. For more information, contact Elizabeth Lasko at 703-860-4000 or MENC’s Web site is

Saxophonist, recording artist, and composer Joshua Redman won first place in the 1991 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Subsequently he released a series of highly acclaimed records for Warner Brothers, including the Grammy-nominated Joshua Redman and Wish, featuring Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, and Billie Higgins. He was artistic director of SFJAZZ Spring Season for seven years. Between 1991 and 2009, Redman performed and recorded with artists including Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, The Dave Matthews Band, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Roy Haynes, Quincy Jones, Big Daddy Kane, Geoff Keezer, B.B. King, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, Branford Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Leon Parker, Dianne Reeves, The Rolling Stones, The Roots, and Stevie Wonder and Sam Yahel. In 2005, Redman released his first record on Nonesuch Records, the Grammy-nominated Momentum. On the recently-released Compass, he takes the concept of “playing trio” in surprising new directions, literally and figuratively stretching the shape of the trio approach; on the most audacious of these tunes, he performs with the entire lineup in a double-trio setting.

The uncredited powerhouse vocalist behind C+C Music Factory’s classic “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” Martha Wash began her musical journey in the late 70s as one half of the disco group Two Tons of Fun. Later, as part of the Weather Girls, Martha scored a Grammy nomination for “It’s Raining Men.” In the early ’90s, she became one of the most sought after session singers and recorded for numerous acts. Her lead vocals on five singles helped to put the group Black Box on the music map. In 1993, Wash issued her first solo CD, Martha Wash, which produced three #1 dance singles: “Carry On,” “Give It To You,” and “Runaround.” Wash began her own record company, Purple Rose Records, in 2004 and immediately saw the first single, “You Lift Me Up” reach the top 5 on Billboard Magazine’s Club Play Chart. She is currently recording material for her upcoming project which she says will be “inspirational and uplifting.”

A high-note trumpeter long in demand for big bands and session work, Lew Soloff is also a distinctive soloist and an expert with the plunger mute. Born in New York City, Soloff was raised in Lakewood, New Jersey, taking up the trumpet at 10. As a teen he worked in the Catskills in the summer and graduated to the New York scene during the ’60s, playing club dates and concerts at Radio City Music Hall. After studying at Juilliard, Soloff played jazz trumpet with several leaders, notably Maynard Ferguson and Gil Evans and the Latin groups of Machito, Tito Puente, and Chuck Mangione. He first came to prominence in 1968 with the Grammy Award-winning jazz/rock band Blood Sweat & Tears. Soloff’s extensive performances have included gigs with Ornette Coleman, Frank Sinatra, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band, Machito, Marianne Faithfull, Barbra Streisand, Dizzy Gillespie and numerous others. Soloff has recorded 16 albums with the Manhattan Jazz Quintet, Pocket Brass Band, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra. He continues to lead The Lew Soloff Quartet and is a regular member of the Carla Bley Big Band.

In jazz, flutists are a rarity. Seattle-bred Anne Drummond transforms the flute’s sound and contemporizes its style with a fresh artistic outlook. Whether leading her quintet or performing alongside pianist Kenny Barron, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, or bassist Avishai Cohen, Drummond is an original voice, both lyrical and powerful, subtle yet driving. As a 2003 graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, she had become established on the jazz circuit, touring the US and Europe with Canta Brasil, and recording several albums with Barron. She has toured the world with indie rock band Bright Eyes. Well known as a teacher, Drummond travels to give master classes and adjudicate competitions, in addition to teaching privately in New York City. She has been adjunct faculty at the New School for Social Research and has coached at Manhattan School of Music. Her debut record Like Water (May ’09) features her original compositions played by a Brazilian rhythm section and strings. Drummond has repeatedly been named a Rising Star in Downbeat Magazine’s Critics Poll.

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. 2009 saw 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).
MENC: The National Association for Music Education, among the world’s largest arts education organizations, marked its centennial in 2007 as the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. Through membership of more than 75,000 active, retired, and pre-service music teachers, and with 60,000 honor students and supporters, MENC serves millions of students nationwide through activities at all teaching levels, from preschool to graduate school. MENC’s mission is to advance music education by encouraging the study and making of music by all. 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.