John's Words on Music Education & Politics

from reuters.com - thanks Rose for submitting this one!

Big Confab Puts Music Education on Schedule
Wed January 14, 2004 09:13 PM ET
By Tamara Conniff

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - While the recorded music business continues to suffer from lackluster sales and Internet piracy, the music-products business is fighting a different threat to its business -- the continual nationwide cuts of music programs in schools.

With the depletion of this consumer group, the music-products business could be facing a crisis. Thankfully, sometimes business interests and the public good collide. NAMM, the International Music Products Assn., is leading the charge by lobbying Congress, funding initiatives and studies and holding rallies to ensure that band practice remains as important as sports leagues.

"We believe that music education should be a part of every child's school day," says Joe Lamond, NAMM's president and CEO. "From an industry standpoint, that is something we believe to the core, not just as marketing or a way to create new customers, but it's what our industry was built on. Everyone that is in the music-products industry has generally come up through that system themselves."

Adds Lamond, who began his music career as a touring drummer and production manager for Todd Rundgren, Ringo Starr and the Grateful Dead: "I had music programs when I was in school, and it's strange that there is a really good chance that my kids won't."

The proceeds of NAMM's four-day trade show, which kicks off Thursday in Anaheim, will go toward efforts to keep music programs in schools as well as initiatives to build the recreational music industry aimed an nonprofessional musicians. Lamond says that more than 70,000 attendees are expected, which could result in proceeds of about $6 million.

One of NAMM's priorities at the moment is SupportMusic.com -- an information Web site tailored to give parents and other interested parties the tools to address school boards and local lawmakers.

Lamond says that because 2004 is an election year, NAMM will be extremely active in Washington. In March, NAMM will hold several events promoting SupportMusic.com and also will have a presence at the Democratic and Republican conventions.

"We want to try to nail down the views of the parties and the candidates," Lamond says. "A lot of people care, and a lot of people will be influenced by (the candidates') stands on music education."

Goo Goo Dolls frontman, singer-songwriter Johnny Rzeznik, also has taken an active role by becoming the ambassador for SupportMusic.com.

"I think it's a fundamental right -- one way to pursue happiness, which is supposed to be an inalienable right," Rzeznik says. "I think everybody in the music business that has been blessed enough to have a career and make some dough should really give it back. Record companies and musical instruments manufacturers are all being very generous because it's good business."

Rzeznik became involved because he didn't take any formal music education in school. "I didn't realize that I would wind up being a musician," he says. "I have no foundation education in it. Even though that forced me into rewriting the rules of music for myself, sometimes I wonder, what could I have done? I'm starting to learn more music theory now, and I'm really excited about it. You start listening to more and different music. Actually understanding how it's done gets you interested in people's cultures and people's psyches and philosophy."

While Rzeznik has met with numerous lawmakers on Capitol Hill, he says one of the senators he'd like an audience with to discuss music education is Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who also is a songwriter.

"I would like to meet with him," Rzeznik says. "If I can get him to sit down and listen to me for five minutes, I'll write a song with him."

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