Candyman Strings & Things Advocates for Music Education in Washington

Staff | SantaFe.com - June 1, 2016

On Capitol Hill, Cook re-enforced importance of new federal law and its inclusion of music education for all children.

Santa Fe area business leader, Cindy Cook, along with 91 other music industry leaders and artists made up a delegation of advocates furthering the case that all children deserve quality, comprehensive school music education programs during the National Association of Music Merchants’ (NAMM) Music Education Advocacy D.C. Fly-In, May 23-26, 2016. With the recent passage of the federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the delegation met with their Members of Congress in support of the passage of the bill and to reinforce the importance of music being listed as part of a well-rounded education for all children at the State-level.

Cook states, “For years I’ve read extensive research about the positive benefits music programs provide students. I’ve kept updated about the progress of Turnaround Arts Schools, (a President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) program), and they are proving grounds for showcasing what happens when music and arts are implemented. They progress significantly with student achievement improving considerably in overall reading proficiency rates, math proficiency rates and attendance rates. Not only that, but suspensions have also dramatically reduced.”

“The Education Quality Report ranked New Mexico 49th in the nation. Although the report states that New Mexico does a good job of distributing limited education funding equitably among school districts, it also ranked 50th in the report’s chance-for-success index. I do understand that low-income families play a factor in those results, but it justifies even more why we need to fund music education and not just peripherally (students required to come in before or after school to take part in music, ½-hour classes once a week, and so forth). It should be an integral part of the daily school schedule.

The Advocacy week began on Monday, May 23 with a Day of Service. Members from the group, including New York Yankee-turned Latin GRAMMY-nominated guitarist Bernie Williams, donated musical instruments and accessories and provided three hours of music education taught by master teachers on drum, ukulele and guitar lessons to students at D.C.’s Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy.

That evening, Cook joined The NAMM Foundation in awarding the SupportMusic Champion Award to Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) for his life-long commitment to music education. On Tuesday, she prepared for her efforts on Capitol Hill by participating in advocacy training at Nelson Mullins, during which she and fellow music industry leaders were apprised of current issues facing public school music programs and briefed on ESSA and the current political climate. Cook was also trained on developing state-level advocacy efforts for music and arts education to put into practice here in New Mexico.

As part of the trip, Cook met with several Representatives including: Congressman Ben Ray Luján, Senator Tom Udall and the Legislative Correspondent for Senator Martin Heinrich about the importance of music education and the support needed to insure that each student has the opportunity to learn music in school; a message that Cook will continue to advocate for at home.

In addition to the advocacy work, Cook was part of a special welcoming committee for Turnaround Arts, a program under the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. At a reception held on Tuesday, May 24, Cook honored a variety of artists, including Smokey Robinson, Alfre Woodard,John Lloyd Young, Carla Dirlikov, Keb’ Mo’, among others, for their work in arts education advocacy, of which, music education is a core topic.  Each artist was recognized with a SupportMusic Award from The NAMM Foundation for his or her support of this effort.

Cook adds, “Music in schools isn’t just a warm and fuzzy idea. Research has verified its validity and the Turnaround schools have confirmed its impact when incorporated as part of a well-rounded education. I truly believe that de-emphasizing music and arts in schools is a huge blunder. All evidence points to a positive impact on a student’s education. It’s a shame kids miss out on experiencing the joy of making music as part of their day, and schools miss out on the best opportunity to augment a student’s education and enrich their lives. Defunding music programs is the worst thing we can do.”

“I was deeply saddened to have seen articles in which our Governor rejected $5,000 for band instruments at a Las Vegas high-school calling the purchase “pork.” Along with other items, she stated that they didn’t create jobs or develop the state. My plea to our Governor is to understand that we must make it a priority to improve education for our kids. Listed in the bottom three states as the worst in the nation when it comes to education is embarrassing and I implore our leaders to consider a remedy that has been staring us right in the face all along. We must value, not de-value, music education.”

I’m befuddled as to why we have to consistently fight for music and arts in schools, but I’m so proud of the Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS) music department which netted Santa Fe the distinction of a “Best Community for Music Education” the past 2 years. The hard work and dedication of LeAnne DeVane, SFPS Music Education Coordinator, and her team work tirelessly to bring music education to our district. But, the kids need more, our state needs more. It was revealed in a new nationwide study, sponsored by the NAMM Foundation, that strong majorities of teachers and parents believe that music education is very important and should continue to be funded, even at the expense of other programs and classes. Teachers and parents get it." 

“Being a part of this effort has redefined me,” says Cook. I was pleased at the chance to speak with Congressman Luján and Senators Udall and Heinrich in their D.C. offices. I was thrilled to learn each are in favor of music education. Now, if we could create champions out of our Governor and others who have a voice in our educational appropriations, I believe we would soon be able to enjoy moving up the national list of education quality and do better for our children.”

“I was honored to go to bat for New Mexico kids in Washington D.C. and I plan to do more here at home. I’ve personally been witness to so many positive effects music has had on the kids that participate in The Candyman music education programs. For something as important as the livelihood of our children, all of us at The Candyman are certainly up for a grassroots effort to assist in ensuring that our kids get better, not 49th, in the nation. There is an easy button to accomplish this; it’s called music education.”

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About The Candyman Strings & Things

The Candyman Strings & Things, a full-line music store, provides private and ensemble lessons and workshops in their music education center, supports a band instrument sales and rental program and offers repair and commercial installation services. Believing that it is important for youth to be exposed to making music, The Candyman implemented Rock School and Summer Rock Camp programs and created The Candyman Scholarship Fund. The Candyman Strings & Things has been named a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Top 100 Dealer since the inception of the program in 2010 and was also named NAMM’s Dealer of the Year in 2014. Cindy Cook currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Music Merchants.

In addition to advocating music in schools, Cindy Cook, along with her husband and The Candyman Co-Owner, Rand Cook, and their incredible staff, consistently give back to their community in a multitude of ways including: Hosting annual music teacher appreciation receptions and providing generous gift certificates they may use toward vital classroom supplies, working with disability programs, in a supported employment capacity, to bring in the severely disabled to perform minor tasks that foster rehabilitation, confidence, skill development, structure and routine and improved overall health, contributing to local charities, non-profits, schools, rehabilitation facilities and individuals, offering free educational opportunities in-store and throughout the community, hosting free community events, donating instruments, supporting local bands, hosting fundraising events for citizens in need (e.g., as the ‘Ryan’s Hope Benefit.’), and more.