Hawaii Youth Symphony

HYS Class of 2022 Seniors Learn About Music Advocacy from Industry Leaders

How can I become an advocate for accessible music education?

What’s better than being part of an orchestra? Having the opportunity to learn about how to advocate for what you love. And who better to learn from than two experts in the field of music advocacy? 

This year, our class of 2022 seniors had the opportunity to learn about music advocacy from Najean Lee and Jazzmone Sutton from the League of American Orchestras and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), respectively. They talked about what it means to be an advocate and why it’s important to join the conversation, even if you think you can’t make a difference as an individual.

Meet the speakers

Our Hawaii Youth Symphony students got to connect with representatives advocating for music education on a national level. Meet Najean Lee and Jazzmone Sutton.


Najean Lee – Najean is the Director of Government Affairs and Education Advocacy for League of American Orchestras. She is part of the League’s D.C.-based advocacy team and, in addition to federal policy work, she serves as the constituent liaison to the executive directors of the League’s smallest budget orchestras and to orchestras’ education and community engagement personnel. Najean is inspired by young voices: “I’ve been inspired by how much enthusiasm they radiate and how well students speak for themselves,” she said.

Jazzmone Sutton – Jazzmone is the State Advocacy Engagement Manager for the National Association for Music Education. Before joining NAfME in her current role, she was a passionate elementary music educator and advocate. She works to strengthen the connection between state affiliates, their members, and educational stakeholders via proactive advocacy work.

The importance of music education advocacy

Music education is important for the development of well-rounded children. However, not all schools in our nation have quality music programs. For example, only 15% of Hawaiʻi’s high schools offer any type of orchestral program.

Thankfully, we live in a time where advocacy efforts can make an impact! The League of American Orchestras and National Association for Music Education both helped provide students with knowledge on how to advocate for accessible music education. It was a wonderful experience learning about these topics and meeting industry leaders who are passionate about ensuring access to quality music education. We learned that the first step to advocating for change is talking to your peers about their personal stories and sharing why music education matters.

Key takeaways from our HYS students

One of our students’ takeaways: “If I had the chance to speak with a lawmaker about the importance of music, I would tell them that music is a positive outlet for youth and adults to express themselves and find a supportive community. Music allows people to find a community of others that share their same passions and interests and gets them involved with positive influences in their life. Music also teaches youth life skills such as time management and perseverance because the skills learned from learning music apply to other areas of life as well. Music also allows people to grow by learning to work with different people throughout their life. Music education offers all of these benefits to youth and adults so by supporting music with funding and additional support, people across America will reap the life-changing benefits of music.”

Another one of our students is passionate about advocating for all kinds of causes, in music and beyond.

“I’ve taken action for causes that have an impact on me and don’t have an impact on me. The ones that have an impact on me (such as transgender rights and arts education, etc.) move me because I am part of the group that suffers from the things that we are trying to change. And the ones that don’t directly impact me (such as better pay for teachers) move me because I learn to connect with the people that suffer under the current situation (for ex. for better teacher pay, my teachers are underpaid, my mom is an underpaid teacher, – all people that I know and are suffering from it). But the core of what moves me for any cause is the fact that we are all human and deserve our freedom, rights, and life.”

Ways we can make a difference as individuals

Though change can be slow, there’s so much we can do to enact the change we want to see in the world! One great way to make a difference is to write a personal letter or email to your local legislator. Students can also advocate for music programs in their own schools by being a representative on their school board, or by talking to their student representative. 

Another way is to publish articles or blogs to raise awareness about the importance of music education. One of our students recently wrote a blog for Arts ARE Education and participated in the student panel. 

Finally, you can sign petitions or volunteer for events that are aligned with your interests!

There’s never been a better time to be an advocate

Musicians and music educators have had a significant impact on shaping public opinion with regards to arts education. There’s never been a better time to advocate for future generations to have access to music education in their schools than now. In addition to policy makers at the national, state, and even the school level taking an active role in ensuring all students have access to music education, musicians (students- that’s you!) can also play a large role in getting these legislators involved.

We’re so grateful to Najean and Jazzmone for inspiring our students to make a difference.  Check out some great resources below if you want to start advocating! 

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