No Time Like the Present…

Mike Lawson • Commentary • June 14, 2016

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It was an exciting month of May for me, as I had the opportunity to join the National Association of Music Manufacturers (NAMM) on Capitol Hill, who brought in music store owners from around the country.

Many of our readers know and love them for their undying service to our band instrument programs with rentals and repairs, along with some of the greatest advocates and minds for music education. They were there to thank Congress for passing the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” (ESSA) and to ask the representatives to fully fund the bill. I’ll be writing much more on this for our July issue, and sharing more on the ESSA, along with photos from the events.

The trip afforded me the chance to visit an inner-city charter school where they were just into their first year of having a band program, and I was so impressed with their first-year efforts that we’re planning a major follow-up story.

The trip also allowed me to meet four-time World Series centerfielder Bernie Williams. He also participated in the program with NAMM on Capitol Hill. I had to Google him. Since I decidedly have never followed sports, I probably would not have been impressed with meeting a baseball star. One might wonder what he had to do with music, until they hear him play jazz guitar and learn that after he retired from baseball, he went back to college to get his degree in music, just because he could and wanted it. Nice guy, great musician, and another major follow-up story in the works to show that band kids can also be sports kids and don’t always have to choose.

Meanwhile, I wrote last month of the trials of shopping for a P.A. system, and as I predicted in the end of the editorial, I bought the mixer with the fancy iOS interface that mounts in a rack and has all the bells and whistles built-in. I can’t help it. I’m a born technology gear junkie whose home is littered with a vast inventory of musical instruments and computers and associated gadgets to record them with. That led me to put together this month’s technology article on various choices and price points for these new mixers. It used to be you had a recording mixer and you had a live sound P.A. system mixer. Times have changed. These new mixers allow you to do both, or one or the other, with amazing features and price points.

You know, when you think about it, there has probably never been a better era to date to be a musician, or a music teacher. Instruments of quality are available at affordable prices, technology has moved the ball many yards down the playing field, the information age has brought unprecedented support in educational support through tutorials, interaction with other educators across the world and more. Advocates for music education have never had so much power in lobbying their local, state and federal government for support. That doesn’t mean they always get it, but access is easier than any time prior.

And for the first time in our nation’s history, music is now specifically listed alongside math, science, and other core subjects as a crucial part of a “well-rounded curriculum.” For all the troubles one might face in their everyday grind teaching, it’s still a remarkable time we live in.


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