Music education matters immensely, and each year Musical Merchandise Review (MMR) Magazine and National Association for Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation single out and acknowledge individuals whose extraordinary efforts help grow this vision nationwide.
This year, the prestigious Don Johnson Music Industry Service Award was presented to our very own Jonathan and Susan Lipp, owners and founders of Full Compass in Madison, Wisconsin.
Susan and Jonathan share a lifetime commitment to arts and music education. Their first charitable donation together was to a local theater in Madison over 40 years ago. Since then, they have been part of more than 100 boards of nonprofit organizations—Susan currently sits on 13, while Jonathan serves on three. The couple foster a giving culture at Full Compass, and have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions through contests and spirit days for their employees.
“Susan and I are here because of our work supporting music education,” Jonathan began, as he and Susan accepted the award. “To the people in this room, the benefits of art and music education are self-evident.”
Given each year since 2009, the Don Johnson Industry Service Award is presented to “significant figures in the world of musical instruments who have contributed in meaningful ways to the advocacy of music education at the community and local levels.”
Jonathan affirmed the importance of the arts in schools across the country. “The proven truth is that music education boosts scores in core subjects, lowers crime and dropout rates, and improves success in higher education,” he said.
“The experience of going to D.C. with NAMM and lobbying Congress for 12 years cannot be beat,” Susan said, recalling her trips to speak with lawmakers about music education. “Just knowing that you may have had something to do with making changes in this country is really empowering.”
Proof of Educational Opportunity
The NAMM Foundation focuses its support on music opportunities, funds research on the benefits of learning music and advocates for music education across the country. As part of this effort, the Grand Rally also showcases young musicians from across the country who have benefited from their local music education.
Four middle and high school students, who call themselves The Perfect Fourth, sat down to begin the performance portion of the Rally. Ranging in age from 12 to 15 years old, these young men met for the first time last summer at an orchestral camp. The group has gained notoriety since then, and even performed for former First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House, after only playing together for a few short months.
When the quartet finished their set and left the stage, the audience rose into a raucous standing ovation. The glow of pride from their parents’ faces radiated across the room as everyone stayed on their feet for several minutes.
Using Skills to Find a Unique Sound
As they began sitting down, audience members were transported ten years into the future when Black Violin stepped up and onto the stage.
“We were these kids,” violinist Kev Marcus said, pointing backstage toward The Perfect Fourth. “In school, we were playing Beethoven, Bach and Mozart in second period, and listening to Biggie and Tupac before third period.” Along with violist Wil Baptiste, a DJ and a drummer, they formed Black Violin, a hybrid group that combines classical strings with modern hip hop beats.
They recalled the importance of their own early musical education, which is where the duo met and began their decades-long friendship. Marcus also highlighted the importance of being true to yourself and your interests, which led to the creation of their group, which now tours across the country.
Returning to Music Education Later in Life
Musicians Keb’ Mo’ and Bernie Williams reminisced how music education has impacted their lives. Both men’s experiences echoed each other’s, as well as the lives of the young musicians who had performed earlier in the Rally. As children, Mo’s uncle handed him a trumpet, while Williams’ father taught him to play guitar. From there, the rest is history – Mo’ switched to guitar, and has since won multiple Grammy awards. Williams famously focused on baseball, won World Series titles and recently completed his Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music.
Mingling after the show
A young violinist, perhaps 5, wove through the crowd to personally meet Susan and Jonathan so she could play for them a song she had learned. As a student of the Suzuki method, her first education in music is based on playing notes from memory, before learning how to read sheet music. She performed with joy…and flawlessly!
A music teacher introduced herself to Susan and Jonathan as a recipient to a scholarship years ago from the NAMM Foundation that helped her achieve her job in music today. She was grateful. And Susan was touched to tears.
Evidence of the impact of enabling music education avenues for youth was all around.
Music education matters immensely.