Keb’ Mo’, Ronnie Spector & Non-Profits Put Music Education Front and Center at NAMM 2017

NAMM 2017 drew record numbers to Anaheim Convention Center. Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAMM

By Laura Ferreiro

A record number of musicians, non-profits, music technology and equipment brands descended on NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) 2017, making it the largest in the conference’s 115-year history. Held at the Anaheim Convention Center January 19-22, NAMM brought together more than 100,000 attendees to geek out on the latest music gear, network, jam and support good causes.

In addition to upholding its reputation as a musician’s playground, NAMM 2017 also supported vital music education programs in various ways, such as providing funding and instruments for music programs in local schools, and bringing together non-profit partners to promote their work, share best practices and more. This year, a record 57 non-profits, 10 partners and 18 NAMM Foundation grantees attended the first annual series of non-profit roundtable discussions.

Keb’ Mo’ and Bernie Williams chat with NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen

What’s more, the NAMM Foundation’s second annual Grand Rally for Music Education took place Saturday, January 21, featuring Keb’ Mo’ and Bernie Williams. Speaking with NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen, Keb’ Mo’ talked about the importance of simply showing up and setting a good example for the kids he mentors at the Turnaround Arts School where he teaches.

“What do I do? I show up,” Keb’ Mo told the audience. “When you see someone doing something, it’s profound without you even realizing it.”

He encouraged anyone with a passion for music to take action. “While we’re waiting for politicians to make these music programs, we can do it ourselves in our own towns,” he said. “There’s instruments sitting in the back of pawn shops that you can fill music classes with.”

Meanwhile, renowned musical accessories manufacturer D’Addario & Co. attended NAMM not only to show off their latest guitar strings, but also to promote the D’Addario Foundation, which has worked for 30 years to bring access to quality music education programs to children from all walks of life.

“Our main goal is to support grassroots, community-based programs, and ensure that as many communities as possible have access to music education,” said Suzanne D’Addario Brouder, D’Addario Foundation Director. D’Addario & Co. gives 10 percent of its net profits each year to more than 200 grassroots music programs around the world through the Foundation.

Citing decreased high school drop out rates and higher college attendance rates among students who participate in D’Addario-Foundation-funded programs, Brouder explained, “We’re using music as a catalyst for social change.”

Ronnie Spector performs at NAMM show celebrating 20th anniversary of John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAMM

What’s more, long-time NAMM attendee The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus celebrated its 20th anniversary at the conference this year with an Imagine Party on Saturday night featuring veteran R&B group Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes, and a special introduction by Jackson Browne. They also offered tours of the John Lennon Bus, where students have access to state-of-the art recording and production equipment, attend workshops, and are offered the opportunity to produce their own music and videos. To the delight of those aboard the bus that afternoon, Spector was there to teach the kids a few lessons!

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