namm fly-in

The NAMM Fly-In: It’s all about the T-shirt

On my tenth anniversary of attending the NAMM Fly-In, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the experience and the importance of this yearly NAMM event.

Here then are a few thoughts for readers to consider as they, too, may want to attend the NAMM Fly-In in future years.

Whatever you think you know about the Fly-In underestimates the experience

This is NAMM’s leadership in a different role. Just to watch the NAMM staff execute the details of the Fly-In is an education, in and of itself. I would compare it to the inner workings of a Swiss watch. The staff gently teaches you how to coordinate multiple challenging details one after the other, day after day. After you have watched the incredible command of this staff as they face very difficult challenges, you return to your business a better communicator. Truly, you have my word on that. A huge congratulations to the NAMM staff is in order.

The Day of Service

This deliberately reminds us of who we are and why we do what we do. This is a day where NAMM members experience the joy of helping students from around the area. I watched Greg Deering fix a loose screw on a student’s alto sax and return its functionality. I was able to throw a quick tune on a snare drum because when I carried it to the stage, I could feel the bottom head was saggy. NAMM members helped the kids remain quiet and helped keep them centered. We helped a director who was sick with a cold to not feel overwhelmed. We complimented a director who had kids sing their parts without playing horns. I even ran into a former student who now attends the Duke Ellington School in Washington, D.C. Simply put, the Day of Service speaks to the character of our industry’s members.

The education you receive from attending the NAMM Fly-In and learning about advocacy is invaluable

The day before NAMM members visit Capitol Hill is the Advocacy Training Day. I would call it a boot camp style experience – one where you learn how legislation truly works. It’s a master class on the art of negotiations. NAMM’s Mary Luehrsen and the team from Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, as well as the NAMM staff, highlight every detail and thoroughly present it to you, so when you go to Capitol Hill you go with absolute confidence in your understanding of NAMM’s mission: to advance support from legislators, in order that every child has access to a quality music education in schools.

It’s healthy to walk seven miles in a day…

And that is exactly what you do on the “Hill Day.” But to earn the privilege of doing that much walking, first, members from each state’s team call their elected officials a few weeks prior to the visit to set appointments with the Congressional leaders. If you ever want to learn how to close a sale, this is the best training opportunity you will ever have.

There are some Fly-In benefits that are often overlooked

At the Fly-In, you have a chance to get acquainted with NAMM members better because you are together for three or four days, morning to night. You become familiar with music industry folks on a different and more personal level than usual. And NAMM is never short on scheduling great political speakers. Charlie Sykes was this year’s guest speaker, and he gave a captivating speech, and even made himself available to catch a great conversation after he spoke. What a quality opportunity and experience for any NAMM member! A great benefit to mention is NAMM members get the experience of seeing Washington, D.C. up close for four days, and you have access that is unique. It certainly is a spectacular sight to witness, especially at night.

Bringing the message home

When it comes to supporting the message of music education, it is truly irrelevant what role your business plays in the music industry. The music education message pertains to all music businesses, and who better to deliver that message than NAMM? We must be the ones to take it to Congress, and we should be the ones telling our customers that, as leaders in the music industry, we have helped forward the important understanding that music makes a difference. The widely acclaimed benefits of music education have become national news and are excellent tools that help create the best and brightest 21st century leaners. This is our message, and our customers need to know we advocate for them.

So maybe next year it’s your turn

If you have not attended a NAMM Fly-In, it’s an idea you may just want to give additional consideration to because you will never look at advocacy the same way again. And where else can you get a T-shirt that says “NAMM Volunteer” on the back?! Wear that in the lobby of your store and see what a conversational opening that one is!

Originally posted on MMR on July 20, 2018

Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters” column.