Talking Up Music Education with Mary Luehrsen the Executive Director of The NAMM Foundation

by Darrell Darnell | Pro Podcaster Stories

“They have to stay at the table to take that willingness to move to the next step of doing something. That doing could be a commitment to a three-year plan.” -Mary Luehrsen Click To Tweet

Today’s Episode:

Music is such an important part of our lives. It brings us joy, makes us feel good, and is just a wonderful way to celebrate life. I’m very passionate about the topic of music education for young people and being in school band. This is why I’m happy to be talking with Mary Luehrsen from the National Association for Music Merchants or NAMM.  The NAMM Foundation is a supporting organization of NAMM, a 119 year old music products trade association. The NAMM Foundation is funded by NAMM members through trade association activities and private donations. 

Mary is the Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations for NAMM and the Executive Director of the NAMM Foundation. The NAMM Foundation is about advancing music programs in school and across life. They support scientific research, philanthropic giving, public service programs, and are a great resource for people wanting to help further public music programs. Mary is also the host of the “Talking Up Music Education” podcast. She talks with artist advocates, teachers, parents, students, and business and community leaders about what they are doing to create music learning opportunities. According to Mary, this podcast is about inspiring people to support music programs.

Mary’s passion for music education shines through as she shares what NAMM and the NAMM Foundation are. She also talks a little bit about The NAMM Show and how this event helps support furthering music and music education. We talk about the importance of music education, how Mary uses her podcast to build awareness, and what you can do to help music education in your local community. We also talk about being relentlessly positive, networking with school leaders and board members, the importance of music research in promoting music education, and how anyone can help through volunteer efforts.

“The podcast medium is really important to our world right now. We have a pretty strong listenership and people tell us that it's important to them and that's what matters.” -Mary Luehrsen Click To Tweet

Show Notes:

  • [04:34] NAMM is the National Association for Music Merchants. It’s a 119 year old music products trade association. It started in 1901, when the world was so different.
  • [05:16] NAMM has been carrying the flag, emblems and the torch of the value and importance of music making and music learning since 1901.
  • [05:29] The global music products industry includes musical instruments, pro audio event technology, and all of the infrastructure and technology for large stadium concerts. All of the things for sound enhancement of the industry come together globally.
  • [06:10] We had 129 countries represented at the NAMM Show in Southern California.
  • [07:18] NAMM has also sponsored music brain research and the impact of having children study music early in life.
  • [08:03] Music education is at the heart of the NAMM Foundation.
  • [08:29] Their industry unites around the trade show experience. Because NAMM is a non-profit they can funnel resources into policy and advocacy. 
  • [08:53] They also lobby in DC for federal legislation.
  • [09:08] They also build advocacy networks for education. This activity is fueled through sponsored research.
  • [09:35] The foundation is the consumer outreach entity for the mission and vision. 
  • [10:14] The NAMM Foundation wants to be the engine of promoting music education.
  • [10:55] There’s 14,000 school districts in America and about 50 million children in public school everyday. Mary wants resources to support public music education for all of these children.
  • [11:34] Participation and opportunity are never as good as they would like it to be. A social impact movement needs to be pressing continually for the benefit of the children and young people.
  • [17:05] Music is a powerful way to get people together to embrace a common cause. 
  • [18:08] The podcast is almost up to 100 episodes. 
  • [19:28] The podcast team has worked really hard with building content and helping to form the advocacy portfolio. They have a schedule consistent with their mission. People always like to see new podcasts. Mary is able to record at home with a recorder and a good microphone.
  • [21:30] They produce shows once or twice a month, and do live events from the NAMM Show.
  • [21:58] They also promote the shows as actively as they can.
  • [24:24] They have a pretty good download rate, the impact of the show is something that they are leaving to faith. The show may be having an impact because Mary was asked for her autograph.
  • [25:39] The podcast is mainly about inspiration.
  • [26:49] School music programs are frequently underfunded. 
  • [28:12] Being supportive of music teachers and programs can be helpful. 
  • [30:00] They are starting a relentlessly positive advocacy effort. Part of that effort is saying thank you.
  • [33:43] When it comes to funding, there are levers to pull. We just need to be a positive part of the conversation with our school leaders.
  • [35:36] Darrell wishes that everybody can experience how awesome being in band is.
  • [38:57] School administrators want the music programs, they just need to know that they have support.
  • [39:29] When Mary is walking she listens to NPR or has quiet time. She does love the Sirius Radio Met Opera and Jazz channels. She’s also not opposed to Bruno Mars.
  • [41:16] The NAMM Foundation has a huge music research database. This information is open source and can be used with citations. 
  • [42:14] They also have press kits for any group trying to start a music program. The information is open to the public. 
  • [45:10] Parents supporting students are truly making a difference with getting music programs in every school.
  • [46:18] Darrell’s takeaways: Mary’s work is very much needed. Parents and non parents can get involved supporting band students. Volunteers can make children’s lives better through their love of music. The podcast draws attention to the work of the organization. Have a podcast that gains awareness of work being done and your partners. Be relentlessly positive. Get into the conversation and build relationships with leaders and the school board. Ask for a three year commitment. They need support to figure out how to get funding. Use NAMM resources. It’s astounding what people will do when they feel support.

“NAMM started in 1901, when the world was so different. NAMM has been carrying the flag and the emblems and the torch of the value and importance of music making and music learning for all of that time.” -Mary Luehrsen Click To Tweet

Links and Resources: