Weird Al, St Vincent & More Promote Music Education at NAMM 2016

NAMM Foundation's Mary Luehrsen interviews Weird Al Yankovic Photo: Getty/Michael Loftus

By Laura Ferreiro

While most people think of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) as a musician’s playground where gearheads check out the latest instruments and jam out on the $4,000 guitar they’ve been eyeing, many don’t realize that promoting music education is at the forefront of everything NAMM does.

At this year’s NAMM trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center January 21-24, everyone from Weird Al Yankovic to Dr. John to St. Vincent did their part to celebrate the importance of music education in schools and inspire younger generations of musicians to play and pursue careers in music.

At the inaugural Rally for Music Education, NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen interviewed Yankovic. The curly-haired comic-singer discussed his creative process and how music lessons shaped his career. He explained that a traveling salesman came to his parents’ front door when he was young selling musical instruments, and they bought him an accordion rather than a guitar.

“It worked out…the accordion made me stand out,” he said. “If I’d learned the guitar I would have been one of 10 million people playing guitar and trying to get noticed.”

During the lighthearted exchange, Yankovic gave students in the audience some serious advice. “If you make a living doing something you’re passionate about, you’re already successful,” he said.

St Vincent at NAMM 2016

Renowned indie artist Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, also spoke to NAMM-goers during an interview with with NAMM President Joe Lamond about the launch of her own signature guitar with Ernie Ball, and her major musical influences including Nirvana and David Bowie.

“I guess I always looked at guitar as a noise-generator,” Clark said. “It could be a monster, it could be a shield, it could be very gentle. So I kind of just tried to explore the full palette of what guitar means and try to reinvent it for the 21st century.”

What’s more, the NAMM community took part in a Day of Service at James Guinn Elementary School in Anaheim on January 19 by coaching 4th, 5th and 6th graders to make music. The kids played guitars, drums and ukuleles with music educators and reps from Kala Brand Music and Remo Inc.

Ukulele class during the NAMM Day of Service. Photo: NAMM Foundation

“The NAMM Foundation works year-long to bring music to children around the world,” said Lamond. “And while our members come from around the globe, making a difference right here in Anaheim has special meaning to us. We’re proud to support the passionate music teachers, parents, students and administrators in the Anaheim City School District who are working so hard to ensure every child has an opportunity for a well-rounded education that includes music!”

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus has become a regular fixture at NAMM and was parked outside the Anaheim Convention Center offering tours to students and NAMM-goers who were treated to a glimpse of its state-of-the art, mobile recording studio. The non-profit offers students the chance to write and record music with high-quality equipment and music professionals completely for free. The Bus celebrated its 19th year at NAMM with a party featuring a Dr. John & The Nite Trippers.

Lastly, renowned rocker Alice Cooper joined Beasto Blanco for the NAMMJAM 2016 at the City National Grove Of Anaheim benefiting the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation on January 22. A live silent auction held during the event featured music memorabilia, autographed guitars, musicians’ original artwork and more to further Music Forward’s mission of providing young people with music-industry mentorships and greater access to music education.

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