Artists Band Together To Save The Music

Forums in Philadelphia and Los Angeles aim to draw music education to attention of political conventions.

Just so it's not overlooked amid the political hoopla of this week's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, the role of music and art in schools will be the subject of a forum Thursday hosted by VH1’s Save the Music, the Creative Coalition and the National Association of Musical Merchants.

The discussion, titled "Artworks: The Benefits of Arts Education," aims to bring music education to the forefront of the political dialogue. (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns VH1.)

"We believe that music and arts education is a critical element in the education of every child, and it should be a basic component of any educational improvement strategy," actor William Baldwin, president of the Creative Coalition, said in a press release.

Since the early 1970s, the burden of educational funding has shifted toward state and local school districts. Since then, music and arts programs have been on a steady decline and Save the Music and other groups have strived to reverse that trend.

The panel will be moderated by presidential son Ron Reagan and, with Baldwin, will bring together Dr. Francis Raucher, a University of Wisconsin professor of child development, and musicians Chuck D (of Public Enemy), Brian Desveaux and Jeremy Dean (of Nine Days). U.S. Reps. David McIntosh, R-Ind., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., also will participate.

The Creative Coalition is a public outreach organization devoted to First Amendment issues and arts advocacy. Since 1998, the coalition has sharpened its focus on arts education, with "Artworks" being its latest push in that direction.

The panel marks the first time that art and music education have been discussed during a national convention, according to the Save the Music Web site (www.vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus). The event will take place outside the convention hall, at the Prince Music Theatre.

A mirror discussion also will take place Aug. 15 during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Actors Christopher Reeve and Hector Elizondo, producer Lawrence Bender, Irvine University professor Dr. Gordon Sha, and musicians Montel Jordan and Dave Koz will join moderator Christopher Cuomo for the panel. U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., chairperson of the Congressional Arts Caucus, also will join the panel discussion.

The goal of the Save the Music campaign is to restore the prestige of arts education in the public arena and raise public awareness of the benefits of arts education. First lady Hillary Clinton called the program a model for improving public education. Artists such as MC Hammer, Billy Corgan and John Mellencamp have supported Save the Music projects in the past.