“Nobody doesn’t love music,” said Joe Pritchard, who firmly believes in the value of instilling that love in children as part of a well-rounded education.
He acknowledged that such thinking is also intrinsic to the future of his business, Kentlands’ Pritchard Music Academy. As such, for the past 10 years, he and Becky Pritchard, his wife and business partner, have joined with fellow members of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation to lobby Congress for funding music education in public schools.
NAMM, Pritchard said, has about 9,000 U.S. member businesses, 10,000 worldwide. Members are mostly music merchants and manufacturers—like Yamaha and Alfred Music. “These big companies know that kids are the future of our country,” he observed.
“What NAMM policy postulated—that a strong music education helps with critical thinking, math and languages, even retention; there are fewer dropouts and suspensions—was confirmed by research at the University of Kansas (that was released in 2014),” Pritchard said.
This year, Pritchard said, while Becky was busy with their store’s move to its new Kentlands Boulevard location, their daughter, Olivia, a 21-year-old political science major at UMBC, accompanied him to the annual “fly-in” event in May. (For the Pritchards, in contrast to many of the 100 NAMM delegates who traveled from across the country, the trip actually was a “drive-in” to the D.C. meeting.)
The Maryland contingent of six—including delegates from Frederick County and the Eastern Shore—had eight or nine meetings with congressional aides who, in turn, brief the representatives and senators. “We had real substantive conversations. They took notes, engaged with us—there was great give and take, and we got no pushback,” Pritchard said. “We have met with some of these aides for four or five years in a row.”
Pritchard especially praised the leadership of Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (DOR), who co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus that advocates for the integration of the arts with traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum and activities.
Pritchard noted that although Title IV funding of $1.6 billion was authorized by President Obama in 2015, only $400 million was budgeted; $780 million in 2016, $1.1 billion for 2018. Now Title 4 is still not fully funded, at $1.3 of the $1.6 billion. “It took almost five additional years to reauthorize the primary and secondary education act,” he said.
Last year, he added, Montgomery County used about $70,000 from Title IV fund—“probably on curriculum and teacher improvement.” There were no cuts for music education in MCPS this year; in fact, one music teacher position was added.
“Advocating on a local level has been very fulfilling and really inspiring,” Pritchard said