By Ana Dobrian, National Account Manager at On-Stage/The Music People
Lead photo by Eman Mohammed
My personal exploration of the NAMM D.C. Fly-In all began with a phone call.
As the social media buzz around the event began circulating in the summer of 2023, I reached for my phone and dialed a fellow Women of NAMM (WoN) alumnus, Erin Kessler, marketing director at Maple Leaf Strings and NAMM Young Professionals (YP) vice president, to talk about the prospect of WoN and NAMM YP getting involved.
We acknowledged that our understanding barely scratched the surface. However, recognizing our collective network of seasoned veterans within the industry, we saw an opportunity. We embarked on a joint mission, intending to tap into the wealth of experience and insights possessed by our industry friends. Our plan was to gather their perspectives and wisdom to determine if our participation would be beneficial to the group, our respective states and industry.
Armed with fresh insights into the Fly-In’s mission, we realized that attending wasn’t just a desire but a responsibility we felt compelled to fulfill.
I’m grateful for all the advocacy, inspiration and action that phone call inspired and for the leadership team at On-Stage/The Music People for allowing me to step away from my day-to-day responsibilities to advocate for music education.
In the weeks leading up to the Fly-In, NAMM staff presented webinar training sessions, built a comprehensive materials website, and made themselves available to delegates every step of the way as we prepared to meet in D.C.
I arrived in D.C. on Sunday afternoon ahead of Monday’s day of service, and the energy among the delegates was immediately tangible. It was electric.
Monday’s day of service filled the group with an even greater sense of purpose, giving us the opportunity to speak with and encourage students at the University of the District of Columbia to explore career opportunities in the music industry through NAMM’s Network with the Pros college-to-career networking model.
When Tuesday came, all 84 delegates gathered to prepare and train for the big day on Capitol Hill. Insightful presentations were led by NAMM’s partners at Nelson Mullins LLP and the group enjoyed an inspiring keynote speech by Congressman Maxwell Frost (FL-10). The delegates were energized and ready to take on the Hill!
Representing New Jersey, I was lucky to have the legendary Bob Morrison, founder and CEO of Quadrant Research/The Arts Ed Data Project, and lifelong advocate for music and arts education, on my team. Being the incredible leader he is, Bob empowered me to take on a different role in each meeting.
I’ll never forget the walk over to the Hart Senate Office Building for our first meeting at the office of Senator Bob Menendez (NJ). I felt a sense of duty and a shared collective mission with my team as we walked the halls of Congress — and that feeling grew each time we received encouragement from fellow NAMM members we bumped into along the way.
After the first meeting began, all my jitters became a distant memory. We went on to meet with the offices of Senator Cory Booker, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and Congressman Thomas Kean Jr. to request full funding for ESSA’s Title IV, Part A, Title I and Title II. Each of the meetings included powerful conversations about the importance of music education and the role that ESSA funding plays in allowing equitable access to music education for every student. Our state representatives and their offices thanked us for coming to D.C. to speak with them about these crucial issues that matter now more than ever.
Meeting with our representatives and speaking from our hearts about the importance of music education was simply natural for our group. Each one of us had stories about how music touched our lives and developed our skills in teamwork, creativity, discipline and beyond. The experience was especially personal for me having attended Title I public schools in New Jersey that ESSA supports.
I left the NAMM D.C. Fly-In feeling empowered — having developed even stronger relationships with my fellow NAMM members — and inspired with a greater sense of responsibility in my work. I look forward to continuing music advocacy at the state level, and once again with fellow NAMM members in May of 2025.
If you find yourself wondering if your voice matters and can create a lasting impact, it does and it will. Phone a fellow NAMM member and get involved today! You won’t regret it.
Take Action for Music Education
Use NAMM’s advocacy tool to send a message to your representatives letting them know you’d like them to continue to fund and support music education.