University of Lynchburg music education majors traveled to Richmond on Thursday, February 1, for Arts Advocacy Day. The annual event, sponsored by Virginians for the Arts, brings arts supporters from across Virginia together to meet with lawmakers about the importance of the arts to education, culture, and the economy of the Commonwealth.
More specifically, the Lynchburg students — Thomas Cass ’20, Brianna Fleming ’20, Zerai Thornton ’20, and Chris Young ’20 — wanted to let members of the General Assembly know they oppose House Bill 1419. The bill concerns instructional time in Virginia’s public schools. Opponents fear it could reduce the amount of time devoted to the arts in elementary schools.
Prior to the trip, Cass said he planned to “tell legislators that music doesn’t consist of just notes, numbers, and rhythms” and that its study involves a variety of academic subjects. “Music consists of reading, the description that is before every piece; foreign language, the written cues in pieces that are not always in English; history, when a piece of music was composed and how the modern events of the time influenced the piece; math, the counting of the subdivision of notes; and science, the auditory value each pitch has and whether they need to change the pitch by changing the amount of space that is able to vibrate in the instrument.”
Thornton said she would tell lawmakers “that the arts aren’t about just something to do to pass the time” and “are a way to help youth stay out of trouble [and] help them cope with anything that they’ve gone through.” Thornton, who plans to teach music after graduation, said the arts also can be a career, but that option can be more difficult to explore “if the arts aren’t represented in their schools.”
While in Richmond, the LC students met with aides of Lynchburg-area Delegates T. Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg) and Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) and Senators Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) and Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg). Young believes their message was well received.
“The legislative aides of Scott Garrett and Steve Newman were very receptive to what we were saying,” he said. “We talked about personal experiences, growing up at schools within their districts and the lack of support that some of the schools face. We also invited each of them to attend a performance from the University of Lynchburg Music Department.”
The Lynchburg students also performed for lawmakers and members of the Virginia Music Educators Association during “Lights, Coffee, Action!” a breakfast meet-and-greet at Dominion Arts Center’s Carpenter Theatre. The students are members of the CoVMEA, which is the collegiate branch of the VMEA. Young is president of the CoVMEA and Cass is its western region representative.