A Brief History

The National Music Council is celebrating its 75th Anniversary as a forum for the free discussion of this country’s national music affairs and problems. It was founded in 1940 to act as a clearinghouse for the joint opinion and decision of its members and to work to strengthen the importance of music in our life and culture. The Council’s initial membership of 13 has grown to almost 50 national music organizations, encompassing every important form of professional and commercial musical activity.

The Council’s accomplishments have been varied and far-reaching.

It fostered the first steps of a number of important U.S. music associations: the American String Teachers Association, National Association for Music Therapy, and the National Opera Association, and Early Music America.

It has administered significant initiatives in music, such as the Composers in the Schools project, funded by the Ford Foundation in 1958, and the annual surveys of symphonic repertoire later compiled by BMI and the American Symphony Orchestra League.

It has assisted the Federal Government on matters pertaining to music, most notably in the formation of the U.S. State Department`s Cultural Exchange Program.

In 1968, the Council hosted the sixth International Music Congress in cooperation with the International Association of Music Libraries.

In 1976, it administered the Bicentennial Parade of American Music, which presented 52 state concerts in Washington, D.C., produced a radio series of local composers in each state, and placed 200 bronze plaques at sites where our musical history was made.

The NMC’s National Black Music Colloquium and Competition recognized and rewarded talented young black instrumentalists and encouraged the performance and composition of works by black American composers.

In 1988, it joined with High Fidelity magazine to present a symposium on “Music in America, 1988” at the MIDEM recording and video exposition in Cannes, France.

During the past years, the Council has taken a leadership role in developing a strong, grass roots support effort for adoption and implementation of the arts education criteria, set forth in the Goals 2000: Educate America Act signed into law by President Clinton in April, 1994. The Council continues its influence in this area today by working for the reauthorization of the Goals and the continued inclusion of music and the arts as component areas of study.

The Council works diligently to develop active grassroots support for the NEA; for stabilizing copyright registration fees for individual composers, writers, and artists; and for supporting legislation that protects the work of American creators.

In 1997, the Council initiated and facilitated an agreement between the American Federation of Musicians, American orchestras, and composers of contemporary orchestral works that would enable the composers to gain access to archival recordings of their work for study and promotional purposes. NMC continues to facilitate the processing of these tapes.

Since 1998, the National Music Council has been a co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day, an annual day of lobbying on Capitol Hill for public support of the arts. In addition to this activity, NMC partnered with MENC: The National Association for Music Education to organize a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill for music education in 2002.

The Council has brought its support of music education past national borders through its participation in the International Music Council of UNESCO. Representing the United States for the past two years at the meetings of the Tri-Americas regional conference of the IMC, the National Music Council provided support materials for music education advocacy and arts curriculum standards in both Spanish and English for all participating nations.

In 2002, the Council honored the USO in recognition of over 60 years of bringing service, comfort and support to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, through American music and entertainment. An NMC sponsored symposium entitled The Influence of American Music Abroad: Music as the Great Ambassador preceded the awards presentations.

From 2005 – 2008 the Council produced five half-hour television programs on music issues including intellectual property protection, career opportunities in the music industry, and music as a source of healing. The shows, along with an NMC produced public service announcement for music education advocacy, are currently airing on public access and cable television systems.

Each year the Council presents the American Eagle Awards for distinguished service to American Music. Recent honorees have included Dizzy Gillespie, Morton Gould, Odetta, Isaac Stern and Carnegie Hall, Dave Brubeck, Marian Anderson, Peter Schickele, Elliott Carter, Max Roach, Lena Horne, Roberta Peters, Dorothy DeLay, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, Betty Carter, Phil Ramone, The Oak Ridge Boys, the Marsalis family, Save the Music founder John Sykes, Roy Clark, Clark Terry, Dawn Upshaw, Margaret Whiting, and Leonard Slatkin. In 1998 the Council presented its first corporate award to Texaco, Inc. in recognition of over 50 years of support for music and the performing arts in America.

The National Music Council convenes at least once a year during its “Music Leadership Meeting.” At these sessions, the representatives of the member organizations come together to exchange ideas and information, to adopt united expressions of opinion, to work out cooperative efforts among themselves, and to encourage the highest ethical standards in the music professions and industries.

Subjects presented at recent meetings include developing educational partnerships between arts organizations, educators, and the business community; the impact of music on cognitive development in children; issues surrounding the digital distribution of intellectual property via the internet; censorship and the arts; the increasing internationalization of music marketing; and problems facing the contemporary American composer. Proposed and pending Congressional legislation referring to music is discussed regularly, with joint opinions being forwarded to appropriate governmental agencies and officials.

The NMC hosts a speakers bureau of composers and songwriters to educate the public about the issues and ramifications of music piracy on the internet.

The Council recently produced an Emmy Award winning copyright education public service announcement, primary school lesson plans, and innovative teaching tools to encourage respect for creators and their works in partnership with the Music Publishers’ Association of the United States. The Council also co-sponsors an annual student video competition on the importance of copyright with NPA.

NMC is an annual national co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day and an active member of the Music Education Roundtable and SupportMusic Coalition.

If your organization has an interest in any of these issues, we urge you to contact us for a membership kit.